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Let us be strong in our hearts

We provide information and guidance on Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease from some of Aotearoa New Zealand's leading health experts. 

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Together, we can stop the spread of Strep A and protect our whānau.

About Rheumatic Fever and
Rheumatic Heart Disease

Rheumatic Fever

Rheumatic Fever is an illness you can get from  some untreated sore throats caused by a bacteria called Strep A (strep throat). 

 

The same Strep A also causes skin infections. Rheumatic fever causes swelling with inflammation that can damage hearts.

Rheumatic Heart Disease

Rheumatic Heart Disease is when hearts are permanently damaged by rheumatic fever. Usually only children get rheumatic fever but rheumatic heart disease can last a lifetime.

What is it?

What are the treatments?

If you are first diagnosed with Rheumatic Fever you will usually be admitted to hospital for care, pain relief and rest.

 

The best way to prevent you getting Rheumatic Fever again, is to give you injections of penicillin every month for around 10 years.

 

These stop further Strep A infections and keep your heart healthy. You might need other types of heart medicines or heart surgery depending on how severe the damage is to your heart.

How do you

get it? 

After a Strep A infection, your body might have an autoimmune reaction.

 

This is where your immune system reacts by attacking parts of your body such as your joints and your heart.

 

This reaction can cause pain, fevers, swelling and breathlessness - this is rheumatic fever.

How will your doctor diagnose it? 

Rheumatic Fever

Rheumatic Fever is a diagnosis made from recognised combinations of signs and symptoms. These include physical symptoms, and signs on medical examination. They often include heart murmurs and hot swollen painful joints, acute arthritis, blood tests for evidence of recent Strep A infection and tests to scan the heart (called an echocardiogram).

Rheumatic Heart Disease

 When the inflammation leads to permanent damage of the valves  it is called Rheumatic heart disease. It has been diagnosed by a medical examination hearing heart murmurs, using a stethoscope or with an echocardiogram (scan or ultrasound of the heart), which let technicians and  doctors finds how the heart valves are affected and the heart is pumping.

Rheumatic Fever

Symptoms of Rheumatic Fever include:

  • fever,

  • tiredness,

  • painful swelling in knees, elbows, wrists, ankles, hips and other big joints,

  • sometimes jerky movements and

  • occasionally skin rash or lumps under the skin.

Rheumatic Heart Disease

Symptoms of Rheumatic Heart Disease include:

  • fatigue,

  • shortness of breath

  • limited exercise tolerance

  • chest pain,

  • awareness of a fast fluttering heartbeat (heart palpitations) 

  • Sometimes the doctor or nurse will hear a heart mumur (a sound your heart makes when blood is not flowing properly through the heart).

 

Some people do not know they have RHD until it starts to affect their daily life or they experience serious symptoms. 

What are the symptoms? 

How can we prevent it?

We can prevent Rheumatic Fever by stopping the spread of Strep A throat infections and treating strep throats with antibiotics (penicillin).

 

This means if you have a sore throat, get it checked at your doctors or at school if they do throat checks. Throat checks are free for children. Treating skin infections is important too as it also limits Strep A spread. 

Please see a health professional if you or your child has a skin infection

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