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Promising advances in prevention of rheumatic fever

Wellington campus

Tuesday 9 February 2016 12:45pm

rheumatic fever image
Māori and Pacific children and young adults (aged 4-19 years) have the highest rates of rheumatic fever. Photo: Ministry of Health and Health Promotion Agency National Rheumatic Fever Campaign

Leading health researchers and practitioners are meeting today to work towards preventing and controlling rheumatic fever across New Zealand and Australia. The experts are gathering at a one-day seminar at the 20th Public Health Summer School run by the University of Otago, Wellington.

One of the speakers is leading rheumatic fever researcher Professor Jonathan Carapetis from the Telethon Kids Institute in Perth. His presence reflects the strong linkage between New Zealand and Australia as two of the only developed countries that still have significant rates of rheumatic fever.

“New Zealand and Australia must collaborate more to find ways to tackle the third-world disease of rheumatic fever. We can share knowledge about what works, and progress the development of a vaccine and other longer-term strategies,” says meeting organiser Professor Michael Baker, from the University of Otago, Wellington.

New Zealand’s Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme (RFPP) appears to be having an effect with a 40 percent decline in the incidence of new cases of rheumatic fever in children across New Zealand in 2015 compared with baseline years (2009-10).

“Today we will look at which aspects of New Zealand’s prevention programme are having the most effect in reducing the incidence of this disease.” says Professor Baker.

The symposium includes 22 speakers making it one of the largest gatherings of experts assembled in New Zealand to discuss the prevention of rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease.

The meeting will work through a range of key questions around rheumatic fever prevention, including the benefits of the school-based treatment of sore throats and skin infections, housing improvements, better diet and dental health, the use of probiotics, and vaccination. It will also consider the benefits of case follow-up and echocardiography to reduce progression to serious rheumatic heart disease.

For further information, contact:

Professor Michael Baker
Department of Public Health
University of Otago, Wellington
Tel 04 918 6802
Mob 021 355 056
Email michael.baker@otago.ac.nz

A list of Otago experts available for media comment is available elsewhere on this website.

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