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Throat swabbing programme tackles Rheumatic FeverIn an effort to help eradicate rheumatic fever, Tairawhiti District Health will launch a throat swabbing programming in local schools next month.
The programme is a triple partnership between TDH, Turanga Health and Ngati Porou Hauora and is to be paid for with special government funding over the next 18 months.
TDH Medical Officer of Health, Dr Geoffrey Cramp, said while it’s easy to brush a sore throat aside as “nothing serious”, those caused by streptococcal bacteria can lead to more serious illness, such as Rheumatic Fever.
Rheumatic Fever is a condition that develops about 19 days after a streptococcal sore throat. It can cause a combination of fever, joint pains, skin rash, unusual writhing movements of the arms and legs… but it also causes an inflammation in the heart that cannot be seen or felt. This can lead to longer term damage of the heart which ultimately may result in the need for surgery later in life.
Tairawhiti has the highest rates in New Zealand for children admitted to hospital for the first time with rheumatic fever.
The aim of the prevention programme is to reduce the rate of acute rheumatic fever in Tairawhiti by providing throat swabbing for school children aged 5-14 years who live in high-risk areas for the disease and that present with sore throats.
A launch event on Monday 23 January 2012, is open to members of the public, as well as health professionals. The morning session will deliver an overview of the programme, with the afternoon session targeting nurses. It is to be held from 10.30am at Te Wananga O Aotearoa.
TDH Nurse Team Leader, Heather Robertson, said the programme will ensure at-risk children are treated effectively and will also increase community awareness of rheumatic fever. She added that there is one clear message: “Sore throats matter and in our community every child with a sore throat should see their doctor or nurse to make sure they get care.”
Thirty-four of Tairawhiti’s decile 1, 2 and 3 schools will be the focus of the rheumatic fever prevention programme, with health professionals visiting three times per week during the school term.
Other schools will be serviced on referral to provide the same service for children that are part of the high need population attending higher decile schools. The service will also be offered to whanau of the children testing positive for Group A Streptococcal (GAS) sore throat.
The throat swabbing service will be provided free of charge from February 2012 until June 2013. Ms Robertson said it will be delivered in a culturally and socially appropriate manner where the privacy of children and families is respected.
Visit Midland District Health Boards for more information.
Date: 19 January 2012
For more information
Dr Geoffrey Cramp
Medical Officer of Health
Tairawhiti District Health
Ph: (06) 869 0500 ext 8715
Tairawhiti District Health
Ph: (06) 869 0500 ext 8115
The sponsors of the “Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme – Throat Swabbing in Schools” are Dr Mary Stonehouse (Community Paediatrician) and Dr Geoffrey Cramp (Medical Officer of Health) employed by TDH.
Both these clinicians sit on the Tairawhiti Rheumatic Fever Action group; Dr Cramp oversaw the two reviews undertaken by third year students from Auckland University (Departments of Paediatrics and Population Health).
Dr Cramp also led the March 2009 Rheumatic Fever screening project in Tairawhiti (four East Coast and one Gisborne city schools).
Dr Stonehouse leads the community paediatric outreach service.