There have been four cases of acute rheumatic fever confirmed in Northland in the past two weeks and the DHB is reminding people to get sore throats treated. According to Northland DHB's medical officer of health Clair Mills, the recent cases are a strong indication of undiagnosed groupA streptococcal throat infection in the community. An untreated groupA streptococcal throat infection can lead to acute rheumatic fever (ARF).
Rheumatic Fever is a very sensitive marker of inequalities in child health in our community, Dr Mills says in a media release. While ARF is generally considered a "third world" disease, poverty and overcrowding have contributed to a high incidence among New Zealand's Maori and Pacific communities.
While only 1-3 per cent of untreated groupA strep throat infections go on to cause ARF, it is better to err on the side of caution by taking a throat swab and prescribing a 10-day course of oral antibiotics, she says.
Northland has two school-based rheumatic fever prevention projects currently running, and the DHB has sent GPs and practice nurses information about sore throat management.