CASES of scarlet fever have soared in the first three months of this year.
The start of 2014 has seen more cases of the highly contagious condition reported than in any of the last 17 full years.
Public Health Wales (PHW) has received reports of 13 cases in five to 14-year-olds in Flintshire already this year.
Last year there were three reported cases in the county in the whole of 2013.
The figure is the highest in the county since at least 1997 when figures issued by PHW began.
The previous highest number of reported cases was five in 2011.
In neighbouring Wrexham, nine cases have been reported in the last three months in the same age bracket – also the highest since 1997.
Last year there were six cases reported in Wrexham. The highest annual figure was the seven reported cases recorded in 2007.
PHW bosses suggested that the increase could be linked to a milder winter, but they said they had no firm evidence to prove this was the case.
Dr Rhianwen Stiff, of PHW, has told parents to be aware of the symptoms of the illness.
She said: “Scarlet fever is highly contagious.
“Although most cases are mild and will clear up in a week or so, antibiotics can speed recovery and will lessen the chances of spreading the infection to other people."
No cases have been recorded in any other age group in Wrexham or Flintshire this year.
Leader medical expert and Wrexham G, Dr Peter Saul said: “Scarlet fever is caused by bacteria and produces sore throats, headaches and a fever.
“A rash can last 12 to 24 hours after the onset of the fever. It’s generally pretty mild with not that many complications.
“In most cases, it’s generally a rash with a mild fever and a mild illness.”
Dr Saul added: “Increases are usually down to a reduction in immunity in the local area or a change in the bacteria which causes infection.
“As people in North East Wales aren’t different to the rest of us across the UK, I’d say the bacteria has changed and become more aggressive in accessing the body.”
He said parents who detect symptoms in their children should not panic.
“I wouldn’t say parents should lose any sleep over this,” he added.
“If a child has a bright red rash, take them to a doctor, but otherwise don’t worry.”