Sore throat checks prevent nasty fever
A pre- emptive programme to catch children’s illnesses early has headed off strep infections in more than 100 eastern Porirua children since April.
When children at 12 schools in the area complain of a sore throat, a public health nurse takes a throat swab and, if it returns positive for streptococcal infection, they are given treatment.
Chris Campbell is a Regional Public Health nurse is responsible for Cannons Creek School. She said strep infections can keep children away from school but they can also have more serious consequences, such as rheumatic fever.
A pilot scheme ran at two schools last year and was rolled out to 10 more in 2012.
‘‘Where children have reported sore throats they are recorded in a book.’’
When a nurse makes her twice-weekly visit to the school she contacts the family and arranges to meet them, either at home or at school, and checks with general practitioners for known antibiotic allergies.
If a throat swab returns positive for streptococcal infection, the child is given a course of antibiotics and a tick chart to help them remember to take it and a reward when they finish.
It means the family doesn’t need to visit a doctor, or fill a prescription, Ms Campbell said.
‘‘We make sure we explain that it can go on to rheumatic fever.’’
Rheumatic fever is far more serious and must be treated with a 10-year course of antibiotics. In the worst case it can lead to heart valve damage, she said.
Local All Black star Robbie Fruean was one who fell victim to the disease. Four years ago he underwent open-heart surgery to repair the damage.
The children who return positive swabs are otherwise well.
‘‘They are still at school, they are still functioning,’’ Ms Campbell said. ‘‘Most are not unwell at all.’’
Rheumatic fever is prevalent where people live in cold or crowded housing, she said.
Prime Minister John Key and Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia launched the programme in May at Holy Family School as part of a $24-million, five- year campaign to reduce rheumatic fever.
Porirua City has the highest rate of rheumatic fever among five to 15 year olds in New Zealand, Mrs Turia said.
Maori and Pacific Island people are genetically more susceptible to it and 20 times more likely to he hospitalised with acute rheumatic fever than others.
Keeping well: Wynter Ta’ape, a year 8 pupil at Cannons Creek School, has her throat swabbed by public health nurse Chris Campbell.