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Study backs school rheumatic fever clinics

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 8/03/2017

A sore throat programme in New Zealand schools has led to a significant decrease in acute rheumatic fever rates among primary children, an Auckland University study has found.

The authors say it is the first robust evidence to support community initiatives to prevent the disease.

Lead researcher Professor Diana Lennon says until now treatment to prevent rheumatic fever in children was derived from studies in adults in the American armed forces.

The New Zealand model involves school-based nurses conducting daily assessment and treatment of group A streptococcal sore throats.

Prof Lennon says researchers were able to demonstrate that first presentation of acute rheumatic fever is preventable in a community setting and using oral amoxicillin.

Over two years of running the sore throat clinics, the rates of rheumatic fever dropped 58 per cent, from 88 in 100,000 children to 37 in 100,000 children.

In a paper in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, Prof Lennon said a parallel decline in Strep A from throats was found in cross-sectional surveys once the prevention programme began.

She said the results supported the continuation of school clinics already underway in Northland, Auckland, the Bay of Plenty, Hawke's Bay and other regions.

In New Zealand, rheumatic fever affects mostly Maori and Pacific Island children in low socio-economic areas in the North Island.

Prof Lennon said the disease had continued at an unacceptably high rate with hospitalisation from it affecting about one in 150 Maori or Pacific Island children under 13.

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