Talofa lava. My name is Tofiga and I’m here to talk to you about rheumatic fever. I want you to know all about it.
How it works and how you can avoid it so that it doesn’t affect your children or your whānau. Rheumatic fever is a serious disease that
can affect your child’s heart. You can’t catch rheumatic fever but you can catch the strep throat germs that can sometimes turn into rheumatic fever. Sounds tricky? Let’s talk to someone who
knows a whole lot more than I do. Kia ora, my name is Dr Sarah Sciascia.
I’m a GP at Ora Toa Takapuwahia Medical Centre in Porirua. Sore throats are common in children. Usually, a sore throat can be caused by a common cold or a flu and get better on its own. But strep throat is different. It needs to be treated with antibiotics straight away. Rheumatic fever can develop from a strep
throat if it’s not treated with antibiotics. Sometimes it can be hard to tell the
difference between a common sore throat
and a strep throat by just looking at it. So get your child’s sore throat checked
by a doctor or a nurse. They may take a throat swab to test
for the strep germs. In some young people — mostly aged
between 4 and 19 — if a strep throat is not treated
with antibiotics it can turn into rheumatic fever. This usually happens 1 to 5 weeks after your child has had a strep throat. What happens is, sometimes when the child’s body
tries to kill the strep throat germs mistakenly it attacks other parts of the body too. So the young person can have sore
joints like their ankles, their knees and their hips. They can feel really tired.
And these are signs of rheumatic fever. It can sometimes go on to cause damage to the heart valves which can lead to rheumatic heart disease — the next stage after rheumatic fever. People with rheumatic heart disease may need
heart surgery. Because of damage to the heart rheumatic heart disease can sometimes
lead to an early death. My family has been affected by rheumatic
fever — my aunty got it when she was just a young girl. And I hear stories. Powerful stories. Like a young woman from this very community. She’s 17 now, but when she was 9 she found out
she had rheumatic fever. Her joints were sore, she was really,
really tired every day. Her feet got so sore she couldn’t even walk. When she was told she went straight to
the hospital and spent 8 months in bed. No playing, no out and about, you know it was a scary, hard time for the whole family. When she was 10, things got a whole lot worse.
The doctors said that she needed a heart valve transplant and she was
flown straight to Starship hospital in Auckland. Since then she has had penicillin injections
once a month — and she still has a few years of this to go. She tells everyone, if your children
have sore throats please get them checked. Rheumatic fever is preventable. If your
child is given antibiotics for a strep throat they need to take them for the whole
10 days — even if they’re feeling better. It takes 10 days to kill all the
strep throat germs. Children can get strep throat more than once.
Every time your child has a sore throat please get it checked out, and if it is
strep throat again, they will need antibiotics again. And just like a cold or a flu,
strep throat germs can be easily spread. So remember, when coughing and sneezing cover your mouth and wash and dry your hands often especially after coughing and sneezing.