What is it?
Rheumatic fever is a serious preventable disease that affects the heart and can cause permanent heart damage. Northland has high rates of rheumatic fever, with Māori and Pacific children and young people aged from 5 to 20 years at highest risk. Poor housing conditions, especially overcrowding increase the risk of rheumatic fever.
Acute rheumatic fever can cause: sore or swollen joints (knees, elbows, ankles and wrists); a skin rash; fever; stomach pain; jerky movements; and/or breathlessness and tiredness.
How is it caused?
Rheumatic fever is caused by the body’s reaction to a particular type of sore throat – an infection with the Streptococcus A (‘Strep A’) bug.
Preventing rheumatic fever in Northland
It’s very simple to prevent rheumatic fever– a 10 day course of antibiotics for a sore throat caused by Strep A stops rheumatic fever developing. In places where there are high rates of rheumatic fever, throat-swabbing programmes are offered in schools. If a child tests positive for Strep A, a free course of antibiotics is prescribed.
School-based throat swabbing projects
Organisations working to prevent rheumatic fever
Advice for parents or caregivers
If your child has a sore throat and especially if your family is Māori or Pacific, you need to take them to a doctor, nurse or community worker and get a throat swab. You may be given antibiotics immediately. Make sure that the child takes all the medicines and completes the course.
If your child has the symptoms listed on this page, they may have rheumatic fever – take them to a doctor or nurse immediately.
SORE THROATS MATTER – GET A THROAT SWAB!