Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Campaign targets rheumatic fever cases in South Auckland

A school student receiving a test for Streptococcus bacteria, or strep throat – the precursor to rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease. Photo: Supplied
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Local Democracy Reporting | Free Public Interest News Service

By Torika Tokalau of Local Democracy Reporting

South Auckland schools are taking a proactive approach to kurb the rising concern for high cases of streptococcal throat infections across Tāmaki Makaurau this winter.

For the past seven years, Clendon Park School have had a team of health professionals on-site, making sure tamariki are infection free and treated for strep throat.

It’s part of the Mana Kidz scheme, led by a partnership between the National Hauora Coalition (NHC) and Te Aka Whai Ora, providing rheumatic fever prevention programme to 88 primary and intermediate schools.

Clendon principal Sue Dawson said the programme has worked wonders for them, empowering their community.

Last year, 1400 swabs were conducted, with 157 positive results for strep throat.

“It’s part of school routine every morning, where the teachers ask students during the roll call if anyone has a sore throat,” Dawson said.

“If there are students, they are added to an electric list and sent immediately to the nurses to get checked.”

The scheme has been operating since 2012 and uses throat swabs to detect Streptococcus bacteria, commonly known as strep throat, the precursor to rheumatic fever.

Dawson said the programme helped break socio-economic barriers that otherwise would prevent students and their families from accessing proper health services.

Rheumatic fever in Aotearoa is almost exclusively an issue for Pasifika and Māori, and is most heavily concentrated in South Auckland.

The Mana Kidz team at Clendon Park School. Photo: Supplied

According to a 2022 study, Counties Manukau DHB have had the highest incidence rates nationally since 2009, reporting first episodes of rheumatic fever at 14.7 per 100,000 in 2018

Latest data from the Institute of Environmental Science and Research showed there were 14 notified cases of rheumatic fever in February this year, compared to seven for the same month last year.

Over half of the cases (eight) were reported from Counties Manukau, majority were Maori and Pacific people.

“Once a child tests positive, we purchase the antibiotics and we work with the family to ensure the student completes the course of treatment,” Dawson said.

“Our whānau understand more about looking out for, preventing and managing sore throats and skin infections.

“If a student is absent from school, the Mana Kidz nurses will visit them at home if their families request it, for a swab.”

Rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease are the result of recurring, untreated strep throat or Streptococcal pharyngitis.

If left, they can lead to inflammation of the heart, joints, brain and skin. Rheumatic heart disease is the condition that results from the heart valves being permanently damaged by rheumatic fever.

Manukau councillor Alf Filipaina praised the scheme and Louisa Robertson from NHC, in tackling a huge issue in South Auckland.

“The work that they do, its so bloody good,” Filipaina said.

“They don’t just do swabs and leave, they actually engage with families, work with them, and if there are any issues, they will get support for them.”

According to NHC Clinical Director, Dr. Ranche Johnson (Ngāpuhi), the best thing to do if tamariki had a sore throat was to get it checked out.

“It could save their life,” Johnson said.

Local democracy reporting



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