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Maori And Pacific Rheumatic Fever Rates Amongst World Worst

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, Sept 22 NZPA - Maori and Pacific rates of rheumatic fever are now some of the highest in the world, a Public Health Association conference was told today.

The conference was told that in some Maori communities in the Bay of Plenty, the chances of children contracting the disease were as high as one in 39. This was compared to a rate of one in 10,000 for European children.

The statistics, which came from Belinda Loring's work for Toi te Ora Public Health in the Bay of Plenty, showed the disease needed to be taken seriously, Bay of Plenty District Health Board paediatrician, John Malcolm said.

"Rheumatic fever is a disease where Maori and Pacific children are highly overrepresented, where overcrowding and access to timely and appropriate health care can be an issue," Dr Malcolm said.

Rheumatic fever often started as a sore throat and people needed to be encouraged to take sore throats seriously, he said.

"Sore throats are a sign of the Group A Streptococcus bacteria that causes rheumatic fever and then damages the heart, but the bacteria often flies under the radar."

This had led to the development of the slogan "sore throats matter" which was now used to raise awareness in the Bay of Plenty.

Throughout the 1990s, there were more than 120 deaths per year from heart disease caused by rheumatic fever, and of communicable diseases only AIDS caused greater premature death for those aged less than 65 years.

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