July 18, 2019
Hospital focus results in rheumatic fever undercount
A new study has found the rate of rheumatic fever in Northland was worse than previously reported because the Ministry of health only counted hospitalisations of first episodes of acute rheumatic fever or rheumatic heart disease.
The study in the latest New Zealand Medical Journal showed rates of the disease among Northland Māori were among the worst in the world.
The rate in young Northland Māori was 64.5 cases per 100,000 – nearly 18 times the national average.
Rheumatic fever, which is caused by an auto-immune reaction to untreated strep throat, is strongly associated with poverty and can lead to permanent heart damage.
The ministry's director of public health, Dr Caroline McElnay, says recording acute hospitalisations as the best way of monitoring trends, taking into account the availability, consistency and accuracy of data across the country.
Budget 2019 included $12 million to reduce rheumatic fever rates and support better management of the illness, with the bulk of the new money to be spent in Auckland.
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