Kawerau Rheumatic Fever Prevention Campaign Launched
24 May 2011
Kawerau Rheumatic Fever Prevention Campaign Officially Launched
Another important step towards reducing rheumatic fever among Bay of Plenty children was taken on Friday with the launch of school-based throat swabbing in Kawerau.
Led by Eastern Bay Primary Health Alliance and supported by Bay of Plenty District Health Board and Toi Te Ora – Public Health Service, the progamme involves community health workers asking children if they have a sore throat and offering a throat swab as required.
Part of a Baywide drive to reduce this preventable disease, the Kawerau launch was celebrated with presentations of framed pamphlets by Tony Ryall, Minister of Health to the three children who have made a great contribution to raising awareness locally. Tutohia Huriwaka from Opotiki, Michael Savage from Kawerau and Mersayde Akuhata from Murupara feature in the pamphlets and share their stories about rheumatic fever. “By doing so, you have helped to raise awareness, and show everyone the importance of early detection and treatment of sore throats, so we can prevent the tragedy that rheumatic fever may bring,” said Mr Ryall.
The rheumatic fever prevention campaign was first launched in Opotiki and due to the success of this project; similar campaigns have been established in Kawerau and Murupara, which also experience high rates of rheumatic fever.
Rheumatic fever often starts with a sore throat (a streptococcal infection). A few weeks later the child may develop sore or swollen joints, skin rash, fever, stomach pain and jerky movements. Although these symptoms may disappear, the heart valves may be damaged and this damage may be permanent. A child diagnosed with rheumatic fever requires long-term follow up including monthly injections of Penicillin to stop further attacks.
“Fortunately, rheumatic fever is preventable, provided sore throats are treated correctly. If your child complains of a sore throat take them to the local health centre to be checked. Sore throats matter. If a ‘strep throat’ is diagnosed, the doctor will usually prescribe a 10 day course of antibiotics,” says Dr Jim Miller, Medical Officer of Health for Toi Te Ora – Public Health Service.