Bay in frontline of war on feared disease

Hawke's Bay children on the rheumatic fever "at risk" list will be part of a national Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme, which will take in about 50,000 young people.

The Bay has been identified as one of eight areas in the country which has "vulnerable" communities.

Tukituki MP Craig Foss said the disease affected Maori and Pacific Island children and young people disproportionately. As well as sore throat swabbing and follow-up antibiotic treatment where required, the programmes would also work in with local service to address other health issues such as skin infections, healthy housing and insulation.

Mr Foss said a recent development in fighting the disease had been an agreement between Prime Ministers John Key and Julia Gillard to fund a project to find a vaccine for Group A streptococcus, a condition which can lead to rheumatic fever.

"This is a welcome development and shows how seriously the Government is taking the fight against rheumatic fever," Mr Foss said.

He said the $24 million prevention programme aimed to reduce the incidence of the disease by two-thirds - down to 1.4 cases per 100,000 people - by the middle of 2017.

Napier MP Chris Tremain said communities needed to get behind the programme and he praised the work already carried out by schools and some community groups, and the "mighty Magpies" who supported prevention work.

"Together we can beat this disease," he said.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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