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Rheumatic Fever

Rheumatic fever is a serious but preventable illness.  It mainly affects Pacific and Māori children and young people (aged 4 to 19 years), especially if they have other family members who have had rheumatic fever.

It happens when your child's immune system makes a mistake and attacks other parts of your child's body, as well as the strep (sore) throat germs.

Sore throats need to be checked

Rheumatic fever starts with a sore throat that is known as 'strep throat' - a throat infection caused by a bacteria called Group A Streptococcus.

Most sore throats get better on their own after about four days.  But if strep throat is not treated with antibiotics it can cause rheumatic fever in at-risk children and young people.  All sore throats in Māori and Pacific children and young people (aged 4-19 years) who are living in some parts of the North Island need to be checked.

Most strep throats get better and don't lead to rheumatic fever.  However, in a small number of people, an untreated strep throat develops into rheumatic fever, where their heart, joints (elbows and knees), brain and skin become inflamed and swollen.

If your child has rheumatic fever

If your child develops rheumatic fever they will need a lot of bed rest and time off school. They will need to stay in hospital for weeks, where they will have examinations and blood tests to check their condition.

Rheumatic fever can affect your child's life, making it more difficult for them to play sport or do other activities as they will have less energy.

Rheumatic heart disease

If your child's rheumatic fever develops into rheumatic heart disease, it could cause serious heart problems, damaging your child's heart forever. Your child may need heart surgery.



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Dr Sirovai Fuata'i | MB ChB, Dip Obs Otago; FRNZCGP

General Practitioner