Rheumatic fever campaign focuses on sore throats

Across south Auckland, 32,000 children have been treated for strep throat
Across south Auckland, 32,000 children have been treated for strep throat

The latest figures show efforts to reduce rheumatic fever are working, with rates in south Auckland now half what they were.

One of the drivers behind the drop is a school-based health programme called Mana Kidz.

As part of the programme, children at Cosgrove Intermediate in Papakura are checked to see if their sore throats could lead to something more serious.

"They usually come in because they have a sore throat, so we check their glands and look inside their throat, and take a throat swab if they've got symptoms," says nurse Andrea Hofmeister.

"Around 8 to 10 percent come back as positive for streptococcal A infection."

Untreated, it could go on to become rheumatic fever which is life threatening.

Rheumatic fever is a serious autoimmune disease which attacks the heart.  It starts with a simple sore throat but it can be stopped.  And that's exactly what's being done here at Cosgrove Intermediate.

Across south Auckland 32,000 children have been treated for strep throat since 2012.

"We need to treat lots and lots of sore throats to prevent a few cases of rheumatic fever, it's a big job," says Mana Kidz clinical director Dr David Jansen.

The programme has been criticised for being too expensive and lacking proof it works, but Dr Jansen says the numbers speak for themselves.

"Right now we can say we've achieved a 50 percent reduction in acute rheumatic fever in Counties Manukau," he says.

"Saving 30 cases of rheumatic fever will probably save 30 cases of rheumatic heart disease and each case is going to cost a million dollars in lifetime healthcare costs."

And for kids it means a healthier life.

So the message is, if you've got a sore throat, get it checked.

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