Rheumatic Fever

Rheumatic fever is a serious illness in our communities.  It mainly affects Maori and Pacific children (aged four to 19 years) especially if someone in the family has had rheumatic fever before.  Rheumatic fever starts with a sore throat that is known as "strep throat" - a throat infection caused by a bacterial infection or bug called Group A Streptococcus.  If the "strep throat" is not treated with antibiotics it can cause rheumatic fever.



Meet the Rheumatic Fever Coordinator

Kay Marie Turuta's interest in both professional and personal in Maori and Pacific people's health sparked her interest in the Rheumatic Fever nurse role. She says it's also a great fit with her prior role as bicillin nurse in the community. The bicillin nurse role saw Kay Marie providing monthly bicillin injections for Rheumatic Fever patients, both adults and children in the community setting. "Improving health outcomes for Maori and Pacific people is an area of particular focus for me and I'm keen to do health promotion and prevention along side community organisations and other services which fits really well with the Rheumatic Fever nurse role." While RF role means working with primary care providers and clinicians to raise awareness about urgent treatment of strep throats and prevention of Rheumatic Fever, Kay Marie will also meet you patients when they come to hospital and co-ordinate their care to ensure referrals and support are in place so no one falls through the gaps.



What is Rheumatic Fever? 

Rheumatic Fever is a serious illness which is an inflammatory disease that can cause the heart, joints (elbows, wrists, ankles and knees), brain and the skin to become swollen and painful. It can lead to rheumatic heart disease, which can cause serious heart problems.


How Rheumatic Fever develops and the symptoms

A few weeks after having a "strep throat" you may develop:

  • Sore and swollen joints (knees, elbows, ankles and wrists)
  • Joints may feel hot as well
  • Different joints may be sore on different days
  • An on going fever thats lasts a few days

They may also have:

  • Stomach pains
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Weight loss
    An unusual looking rash on their body (arms and legs)


How does it affect the heart?

If you have more attacks of rheumatic fever then they may develop rheumatic fever heart disease.  This can cause serious heart problems damaging your heart forever and you may need to have an operation on your heart.  You will also need to have regular antibiotic injections to prevent you from getting rheumatic fever again.  Rheumatic heart disease is an "auto immune disease" causing a problem with the immune system.  The immune system is the cells and organs that protect the body against illnesses and infections.  Rheumatic heart disease happens when your immune system makes a mistake and attacks your heart instead of germs from an illness.


What to do to stop Rheumatic Fever

Tell the doctor, nurse or community health worker if someone in your home has a sore throat because they need to be checked.  To stop "strep throat" from spreading you need to cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.  You can cough and sneeze while you are asleep too.  Ask your community health worker about ways to stop germs from spreading when you/people in your home are asleep.


Rheumatic Fever Links

Sore Throats Matter Intranet/Internet Page  

Online Training for Rheumatic Fever

Rheumatic Fever Prevention Plan

Lakes DHB has shown its commitment to reducing the incidence of Rheumatic Fever by two thirds  by 2017. This Annual Plan has been written showing the initiative that will be used to achieve this goal.

National Heart Foundation

The Heart Foundation is New Zealand's heart health charity.  We fund research and promote heart health, helping New Zealanders to live fulfilled lifetimes.  We are steadfast in our goal to stop New Zealanders dying prematurely from heart disease.

Toi Te Ora

We are your local public health professionals supporting good health in our community and enabling people to lead happy and rewarding lives.  Toi Te Ora - Public Health Service is funded by the Ministry of Health and is the public health unit for the Bay of Plenty and Lakes District Health Boards.  Toi Te Ora's purpose is to improve and protect the health of the population in the Lakes and Bay of Plenty districts with a focus on reducing inequalities.

The Ministry of Health

The website will provide you information about what is being done by the Ministry, through its Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme, and by the health sector to address rheumatic fever, provides links to information for health professionals.

Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme

Please click above on "Rheumatic Fever Programme" to see more information.

Sore Thoats

Please click above on "Sore Throats" to see more information.