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Health Alert - Rheumatic Fever

posted Jun 27, 2018, 8:57 PM by Reception @TMCS

Dear Parents/Whanau/Caregivers

A common cause of sore throats is a bacteria called group A streptococcus, which should be treated with antibiotics. In New Zealand, a small number of children with this bacteria, if not treated with antibiotics, can go on to develop a serious disease called Rheumatic FeverMāori and Pacific children aged 5-14 years are most at risk from this disease.

 What is Rheumatic Fever?

Rheumatic Fever starts with a bacterial streptococcal infection causing a sore throat.  The sore throat may disappear, but a few weeks later the following symptoms may develop:

  • sore or swollen joints                      jerky movements
  • a rash                                                 fever  
  • shortness of breath

 Rheumatic Fever can cause permanent heart damage, which may mean stays in hospital, surgery, and sometimes a shorter life.  Someone with Rheumatic Fever needs ten years of antibiotic injections to protect their heart.

 Fortunately, if a streptococcal sore throat is treated correctly with antibiotics your child should not get Rheumatic Fever.

 What do I need to do if my child has a sore throat?

If a child gets a sore throat, and if they fall into a “high risk” group – Māori or Pacific people aged 4 -19 years of age, they should have a FREE throat swab taken.  If they have a streptococcal bacterial infection they will need antibiotics to treat the infection.  It is important that all of the ten days of antibiotics are taken exactly as prescribed so the streptococcal bacteria are killed and Rheumatic Fever is prevented.

 Even a mild sore throat can cause Rheumatic Fever.  Please take all sore throats seriously, so we can help prevent life-long illness and suffering for our children. 

 FREE sore throat swabbing services

Waikato District Health Board is working with communities to provide free sore throat management services across the Waikato, to prevent rheumatic fever and heart damage.  Drop in services are provided by contracted GP practices, pharmacies, pathlabs and secondary school based health clinics for eligible children and young people aged 4 – 19 years.

 For more information on who this service is for, and where to find these services, check out our website:

Sore throats matter – get them checked!!

Information provided by Population Health, Waikato District Health Board, 8/5/18