General practitioners and pediatricians in New Zealand consider not just the astonishingly high rates of rheumatic fever but also it’s mere existence as an embarrassing factor. Rheumatic fever occurs due to streptococcus throat infections and is fatal as it can lead to serious heart problems. Just last week in Northland, 600 children underwent screening for any cardiac damages caused by this fever.
The research was focused mainly on children in Northland and South Auckland. However, the country’s overall rates are also quite alarming at 14 times higher than the OECD average. Some parts in Wellington were found to have terrible rates of rheumatic fever cases especially Porirua East which has the highest number of incidences. Porirua East reported 106 cases for every 100,000 compared to the average of 6 in 100,000 nationally.
The general practitioners and pediatricians are of the opinion that this issue needs immediate Government attention. They also want sore throat clinics to be identified in schools and to carry out heart screening for local children to look for any slips through cracks.
Though it’s not clear why rheumatic fever affected a few children and not others, it was found to be more common in children at overcrowded places. Low income of parents was also found to be coinciding with most of the cases. Those diagnosed with even easygoing rheumatic fever had to be administered penicillin injections every month for 10-15 years to avoid attacks in future that could end up in rheumatic heart disease.
A rheumatic fever sector has been set by the Capital & Coast District Health Board to work on reducing the local rates and even the Health Minister issued a statement pointing rheumatic fever as priority work. The sector will work in high rate areas, carefully monitoring and in collaboration with various agencies for the improvement of housing conditions and to make sure that the doctors knew and understood the seriousness of the disease.
The Dominion Post, New Zealand