Rheumatic fever Control

Rheumatic fever is a serious but preventable illness. Unfortunately rheumatic fever rates in Porirua are high for children and young people, particularly for Māori and Pacific people.

There are a number of agencies working together to reduce rheumatic fever in Porirua, including the Ministry of Health, Regional Public Health and Capital & Coast District Health Board. The Council's main roles are to monitor trends, advocate for residents at risk of rheumatic fever and facilitate where required. Reducing the rates of rheumatic fever is a government target under the ‘supporting vulnerable children’ section of its Better Public Services Programme.

Rheumatic fever starts with a sore "strep" throat – so if your child has a sore throat it is important to contact your family doctor or call the Healthline on Ph 0800-611-116 to speak to a registered nurse for free 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

In a small number of people, an untreated strep throat leads to rheumatic fever 1-5 weeks later, which can cause the heart, joints, brain and skin to become inflamed and swollen. The inflammation can cause rheumatic heart disease (RHD) when there is permanent scarring of the heart valves.

Some people are unaware that they have heart damage from rheumatic fever. In fact, they may have no recollection of having had a sore throat or other symptoms. A New Zealand study estimates levels of undetected rheumatic heart disease of around 1-2% in high-risk populations, such as eastern suburbs of Porirua. For this reason, past Mayor Nick Leggett advocated for the Capital & Coast DHB to continue the echo-screening programme that was piloted in Porirua in 2012 to identify previously undetected RHD in children at low-decile schools in Porirua.

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