A programme to eradicate a third world disease has kicked off in
south Auckland today.
Glen Innes and Panmure Bridge primary are the first of 16
Auckland schools taking part in the Government's $45 million
programme to cut the incidence of rheumatic fever by two-thirds by
Children will have their throats swabbed to check for strep
throat (Group A streptococcus), the bacteria which can lead to the
Around 160 children are diagnosed with acute rheumatic fever
each year in New Zealand. Maori and Pacific children are between 47
to 60 times more likely to be admitted to hospital with it than
Auckland DHB pediatrician Dr Alison Leversha said the programme
would help children, parents and caregivers understand the risks of
"It's a very important programme for raising awareness for the
importance of sore throats, and how we need to identify them early,
to treat them effectively," she said.
Children who test positive for the disease will then be
monitored and given monthly antibiotic injections for ten years to
prevent them developing long-term heart valve damage.
"Rheumatic fever is very serious, as a significant proportion of
those kiddies and young adults will develop heart disease," Dr
Nearly 150 New Zealand adults die from heart damage caused by
rheumatic fever each year.