Sore throat checks pre­vent nasty fever

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By JIM CHIPP

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.

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