Let's stamp out rheumatic fever

13 November 2017


In the last month, two young people in Tairāwhiti have been admitted to hospital with new cases of rheumatic fever.

This is significant news for us all, not just for these two young people and their families. We have to rally behind them all to minimise the chance that the disease will have any lasting impact and prevent further occurrences for these individuals.

There is a bigger issue for us all to face - rheumatic fever is a disease that should never be occurring in our country. We know the determinants and we know that in most western counties it has been all but eliminated. A sore throat bacterial infection can be spread through damp or crowded living conditions and aided by a lack of access to primary care services to treat sore throats every time they occur in our young people.

Having warmer, drier homes is a priority. Action on this is being led at government level and through local agencies including health providers like Tūranga Health and Ngāti Porou Hauora. Tairāwhiti has had the highest rate of retrofitted homes in the country, aided by the investment the Eastland Community Trust has made over many years. Great work has been done. We are seeing the effect of better Tairāwhiti homes with fewer children admitted to hospital.

Now with two new cases, there is clearly more to be done.

Primary care offers an innovative network of nurse-led “walk-in” sore throat clinics. This initiative from our PHO partners means rapid and free access to care for any child or young person with a sore throat. Swab and treat is the mantra. Parents and health staff aligned.

All of this appeared to be working until the last month. In the twelve months prior to that, there had been no young people newly diagnosed with rheumatic fever. This was a sharp and dramatic drop from around 10 per year only a few years ago. We must learn from the latest cases to update our approach. Most of all we need to focus on eliminating rheumatic fever in Tairāwhiti, as soon as possible.

Please remind all your family and friends that sore throats matter and tell them they can get rapid free care by phoning their general practice.


Ka taea e tātou te mahi tahi mo Tairāwhiti pai ake. Have a good week everyone.