Bay of Plenty's leading health authority is urging parents and caregivers to get children's sore throats checked in a fight against rheumatic fever.

Rheumatic fever is a serious illness and mainly affects Maori and Pacific children aged from 4 to 19 years, especially if someone in the family has had it before.

The fever starts with a sore throat known as a 'strep throat' - a throat infection caused by a bacterial infection or bug called Group A Streptococcus.

If the 'strep throat' is not treated with antibiotics it can cause rheumatic fever.

Advertisement

Toi Te Ora medical officer of health Dr Jim Miller said: "There have been great efforts to reduce this illness in our area, but it is still far too common".

"Rheumatic fever can be prevented, if sore throats are dealt with early. If your child complains of a sore throat, take them to the local health centre to be checked."

If a child gets rheumatic fever they can become very sick with sore swollen joints (elbows, ankles, wrists and knees), tiredness, heart problems and may need on-going heart operations. They will not be as healthy as before and will spend a lot of time in hospitals and at the doctors.