“Little Women” Movie Spurs Interest in Scarlet Fever

“Little Women” Movie Spurs Interest in Scarlet Fever

Little Women, the 19th century coming of age movie directed by Greta Gerwig currently showing in theaters nationwide, has moviegoers searching for information about scarlet fever. Beth, the youngest of the four March sisters, dies of complications of the infection at the climax of the movie.

Scarlet fever is a bacterial infection caused by the group a streptococcus bacteria, the same bacterium that causes “strep throat.”1 As many as 10 percent of the population contracts strep throat, and of this group, as many as ten percent then develop scarlet fever.2 Scarlet fever is transmitted through respiratory droplets by coughing or sneezing, or touching something with the droplets on it. Symptoms usually include fever, sore throat and a typical scarlet rash with a sandpaper quality caused by toxins made by the bacteria. Some people may also experience chills, vomiting or abdominal pain. Although generally considered to be a mild infection that clears within a few days, complications such as swollen lymph nodes and tonsils, and serious conditions that affect the heart, lung, kidneys or joints, can occur if not treated with antibiotics.

Scarlet Fever Mortality Rate Less Than One Percent Today

Scarlet fever is most often contracted by children ages 5-15, and is rare in children younger than three years of age.3 Fifteen to twenty percent of school-aged children are thought to be asymptomatic carriers,4 and by age ten, 80 percent of children are thought to have long lasting, potentially lifelong immunity to the bacteria.2 5 However, a 2017 study6 found that ten percent of scarlet fever patients had more than one episode.

In the pre-antibiotic era, scarlet fever resulted in death in 15 to 20 percent of those affected. With the advent of improved socioeconomic conditions and antibiotic therapy, the mortality rate for scarlet fever is less than one percent.2 However, group a streptococcus is still among the top ten infectious causes of human mortality worldwide, with more than 500,000 deaths annually.7

In 1970, scarlet fever was removed from the list of reportable diseases in the United States. However, since 1999, a total of 9,400 cases have been reported in the U.S.  At the same time, there are an estimated three million cases of strep throat per year, which indicates that the infection is still circulating in the U.S.8

Outbreaks Since 2011 In Some Countries Despite Good Hygiene, Antibiotics

With the discovery of penicillin in the 1940’s scarlet fever became an easily treated infection and efforts to manufacture a vaccine largely halted. Penicillin remains the antibiotic of choice, and scarlet fever infections that are resistant to antibiotic treatment has not yet been reported. Hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, disinfection of shared objects, and avoiding infected persons are the best way to avoid contracting group a streptococcus infections.9

Public health officials do not know exactly why scarlet fever, along with other childhood illnesses like measles, declined throughout the early part of the 20th century, but improved sanitation due to indoor plumbing and other hygiene factors are thought to be likely causes. Although scarlet fever is considered a disease of the past, there has been a resurgence of scarlet fever with notable outbreaks in the United Kingdom, China and Hong Kong.7 10 11 The cause of these outbreaks is unknown, but changes in strains of the bacteria,12 the potentially compromised immune status of people contracting scarlet fever, and environmental factors such as temperature and rainfall have been identified as possible factors.11 13 A 2016 study from China14 provided evidence that pollution may play a key role in the re-emergence of scarlet fever in some parts of the world.

In Louisa May Alcott’s book, Little Women, her sister Lizzie Alcott contracts scarlet fever in 1856 while helping a neighbor family and was “never the same afterward.” She died in her sleep in 1858. In Gerwig’s movie, Beth March, played by actress Eliza Scanlen, apparently survives, but is weakened by a first bout with the fever. Later, Beth seems to be sick again with the same illness, but she also talks about how she feels she has been slowly wasting away, noting, “It’s like the tide, Jo, when it turns, it goes slowly, but it can’t be stopped,” making it unclear if she is experiencing a new infection, a relapse of the old infection, or consequences from the first infection. Beth’s death is further complicated by the juxtaposition of moments when Beth is sick for the first time with moments when she falls ill again.15

Disease-Acquired Immunity Highlighted

Little Women highlights the importance of natural disease-acquired immunity. When the doctor comes to the house to evaluate Beth and confirms the scarlet fever diagnosis, he tells the two sisters who have previously had scarlet fever that they are considered immune as a result and can care for their sister, while their sister Amy, who has not had the illness, is sent away for the duration of the illness.

Typically, childhood viral illnesses like measles, mumps and chickenpox confer robust long lasting, potentially lifelong immunity after contracting the illness. This reservoir of disease-acquired immunity in a population previously exposed to an infectious disease produces true “herd” or “community immunity.”16 17

There are features of naturally acquired herd immunity that serve to protect newborn infants. For example, mothers who have experienced wild type measles as children can pass antibodies to their unborn infants through the placenta during pregnancy and through breast milk after birth that protects them from the disease for the first months of life.18 Women who have not had the infection, including those who have received measles (MMR) vaccinations and have artificial vaccine acquired immunity, are unable to pass natural protective antibodies to their infants.19 20 21 22

Children under the age of two rarely contract scarlet fever due to maternal placental transfer of antitoxin antibodies gained by the mother’s previous infection and recovery from the illness.3 4 7

A Strep A vaccine is being developed for global use, with the World Health Organization (WHO) listing the development of a Strep A vaccine as one of the top 13 priority vaccines targeted for fast tracking to licensure. 23 24


References:

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Scarlet Fever:  All You Need to Know. Nov. 1, 2018.
2 Sotoodian B, Rao, J. Scarlet Fever Medscape June 21, 2019.
3
CDC. Group A Streptococcal (GAS) Disease:  Scarlet Fever. Nov. 1, 2018.
4 Hon A. Scarlet Fever DermNetNZ.org Sept 2015.
5 Davis, CP. Scarlet Fever (Scarlatina) MedicineNet Jan. 11, 2020.
6 Dios Javierre B, Venture MG, et. al. Recurrent scarlet fever:  A common entity Anales de Pediatria Oct 1, 2017; 87(4): 232-233.
7 Brouwer S, Lacey JA, et. al. Scarlet fever changes its spots The Lancet 2019; 19(11): 1154-1155.
8 Tubercul 
9
Scarlet Fever and Its Prevalence in the United States. RocketSwag.com Jan.11, 2020.
10 Parado S, Perera TB. Scarlet Fever StatPearls Feb 28, 2019.
11 Adee S. Why are people getting scarlet fever again? Lastwordonnothing.com Apr. 6, 2018.
12 Laurance J. Scarlet Fever, Scourge of the 19th Century, is Coming Back Independent Feb. 16, 2009.
13 Global Biodefense Scarlet Fever Making a Comeback, This Time More Resistant GlobalBiodefense.com Nov. 5, 2015.
14
Mahara G, Wang C. et. al. The Association between Environmental Factors and Scarlet Fever Incidence in Beijing Region:  Using GIS and Spatial Regression Models International Journal of  Environmental Research and Public Health Nov. 2016; 13(11): 1083.
15 Rawden J. Little Women 2019: Why There’s So Much Confusion Around What Happens To Beth. Cinemablend.com Dec. 25, 2019.
16 Humphries S. Herd Immunity:  Flawed Science and Mass Vaccination Failures GreenMedInfo.com July 16, 2012.
17 Leuridan D, Van Damme P. Passive transmission and persistence of naturally acquired or vaccine-induced maternal antibodies against measles in newborns Vaccine Aug. 21, 2007; 25934): 6296-6304.
18 Edwards KM. Maternal antibodies and infants immune response to vaccines. Vaccine 2015; 33: 6469-6472.
19 Albrecht P, Ennis FA, et. al. Persistence of maternal antibody in infants beyond 12 months: Mechanism of measles vaccine failure The Journal of Pediatrics Nov. 1977; 91(5): 715-718.
20 Obukhanych T. Herd Immunity:  Can mass vaccination achieve it? Tetyanaobukhanych.com.
21
Waaijenborg S, Hahne SJM, et.al. Waning of Maternal Antibodies Against Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and Varicella in Communities With Contrasting Vaccination Coverage The Journal of Infectious Diseases, July 2013; 208(1): 10-16.
22 Fisher BL. The Science and Politics of Eradicating Measles. NVIC Newsletter May 25, 2019.
23
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Global Strep A vaccine one step closer. AAAA May 27, 2019.
24 World Health Organization. WHO Product Development for Vaccines Advisory Committee (PDVAC) meeting. June 26-27, 2018.

6 Responses to "“Little Women” Movie Spurs Interest in Scarlet Fever"

  1. Dee   January 17, 2020 at 10:48 pm

    Just more fear from pharma to scare people into vaccinating. They’ve been doing this trick and using their corrupt media in every form since their inception. Research Rockfeller business of disease and learn how he bought up the 300 biggest newspapers to spread his pharma propaganda and destroy natural medicines.

    Reply
  2. Marene Mayer   January 17, 2020 at 11:55 pm

    My Son got Scarlet Fever after receiving Vaccines back in 1976. Luckily I had a Family Doctor that came to my house and told me exactly what to do. From then on his Pediatrician – told me No More Vaccines for your son. And he never got another one. That was back when ………we had a choice.

    Reply
  3. CAWS   January 18, 2020 at 10:50 am

    I read an account of a doctor that was saving patients from death [and rheumatic heart from scarlet fever] before antibiotics by repeatedly wrapping the child in cold wet sheets to bring down the fever. It was very uncomfortable and children would scream but if the parents allowed it the procedure brought down the high fever that caused the permanent damage and had a high rate of success.
    My father contracted polio as a child and rather than physical therapy on his legs he was put to bed and not allowed to get up or move around for two weeks, he fully recovered, did hard physical labor all his life and lived to 88. Evidently walking it off like they did with Roosevelt made it worse not better from the records kept by the woman who came up with the treatment and ministered to hundreds.
    I have survived most of the childhood diseases and while they were an inconvenience I have immunity and passed that on to my kids.

    Reply
  4. JohnQPublic   January 18, 2020 at 2:29 pm

    Please see chapter 12, The Disappearance of Polio, in the book Dissolving Illusions, which discusses the review of President Franklin Roosevelt’s paralysis by modern researchers as actually GBS, Guillian-Barre Syndrome and not polio. The chapter also discusses the polio treatment program developed by Sister Elizabeth Kenny to quickly recover mobility which went against the prevailing medical practice of immobilizing the patient that resulted in permanent paralysis and disfigurement.

    Reply
  5. Jill Herendeen   January 18, 2020 at 3:38 pm

    Excerpts from DISSOLVING ILLUSIONS: DISEASE, VACCINES, AND THE FORGOTTEN HISTORY by Suzanne Humphries, MD & Roman Bystrianyk: “Thoughout the 1800s, scarlet fever was a significant killer…a far bigger killer than smallpox, whooping cough, measles and diphtheria. During the Sanitation Revolution from the mid-1800s and into the early 1900s, scarlet fever deaths plummeted…Even by the early 1900s, anyone who became ill with scarlet fever had a 95% decreased mortality risk compared to the antecedent century. It is noteworthy that the terror of scarlet fever became a distant memory–long before antibiotics were available to treat it.” pp. 192-193; and on p. 47: “antibiotics actually seem to increase the toxic release from [scarlet fever].” (cited from: M. Tanaka, T. Hsegawa, A. Okamoto, K. Torii, and M. Ohta, “Effect of Antibiotics of Group A Streptococcus Exoprotein Production Analyzed by two-Dimensional Gel Electrophoresis,” ANTIMICROBIAL AGENTS AND CHEMOTHERAPHY, vol, 49, no. 1, January 2005, pp. 88-96.)

    LITTLE WOMEN was published in 1868, and its author, who died in 1888, aged 55, rather before the Sanitation Revolution.

    Reply
  6. The Wizard   January 18, 2020 at 9:12 pm

    Yet another example of pHARMa fear mongering through their media puppets. Scarlet fever will be hyped like the measles. The “news” channels will be saturated with scarlet fever “outbreaks”. This will be blamed on the unvaccinated, the message will be clear. “You’ve gotta get your shots folks”. There will be New York style overreach; mandatory exclusion from society. Then scarlet fever, hitherto a benign illness for advanced nations, will morph. It will become resistant, it will become more virulant and so it will go on and on and on. This madness needs to end.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.