Burning Up

New research highlights serious fever risk that’s hurting our kids.

New research has found that Indigenous kids are being increasingly struck down by acute rheumatic fever while the rest of the population remains relatively unaffected.

Rheumatic fever is an infection that is a delayed complication of an untreated throat infection (strep throat) . It’s an inflammatory disease that affects many of the body’s connective tissues, especially those of the heart, joints, brain or skin. The condition can be extremely painful, and can often lead to damaged heart valves and rheumatic heart disease that can last for life.

The disease virtually disappeared from Australia’s non-Indigenous population in the early 1960s and is now rarely, if ever, seen in most developed societies.

But research by the National Heart Foundation of Australia and the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand has found that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote areas continue to have one of the highest rates in the world.

Their research revealed that there were 1133 cases of chronic rheumatic heart disease among people of all ages in the Top End of the Northern Territory and Central Australia in 2004 – up from 979 cases two years previously.

Indigenous children aged five to 14 accounted for over 63 per cent of new cases of acute rheumatic fever in regional areas of northern Australia in 2004 – an increase of 13 per cent in two years.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people also are up to eight times more likely than others to be hospitalised for the condition and nearly 20 times more likely to die.

Risk factors for rheumatic fever include p overty and overcrowding, poor sanitary and housing conditions, lack of education and limited access to health care for diagnosis and treatment.

If you have any concerns about a throat infection or rheumatic fever, or if you want to find out more information, see your GP or ask at your local AMS.

Did you know?
Strep throat infection can lead to rheumatic fever. Symptoms of strep throat include:

  • A sore, red throat with thick pus-like fluid around the tonsils
  • Fever and chills
  • Enlarged and tender lymph nodes in and around the neck
  • Vomiting and stomach ache, particularly in children

Symptoms of rheumatic fever include:

  • pain and swelling in large joints
  • fever
  • weakness
  • shortness of breath
  • rash
  • bumps under the skin and
  • spasms of the arms and legs

These symptoms often begin one to six weeks after a strep throat infection has appeared to clear up.

If you have any questions or concerns, visit your doctor or AMS immediately.

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