Rheumatic fever is a serious disease which causes permanent damage to the heart valves. It mostly affects children between the ages of 5 and 14. In New Zealand, it mostly affects Maori and Pacific Island children. This is because these children are more likely to come from poor families and be living in cold, damp houses and in crowded conditions. It is a very infectious disease and one child can easily pass it on to other children living in the same house.
It starts with a sore throat and about 20 days later, can develop into rheumatic fever. Parents need to take children with sore throats to a clinic to check for streptococcal bacteria.
The Minister of Health, Tony Ryall, announced today an extra $21.3m over the next four years for Auckland and Porirua, an area of Wellington where many Maori and Pacific Island families live. The money will be used for
• free drop-in clinics where children with sore throats can be checked,
• for better housing,
• for home visits,
• for more education about rheumatic fever and
• for research into a possible vaccine.
This money will be part of the government’s Budget on May 16th.
• permanent – forever, not temporary
• valve – opens and closes to let blood pass in and out of the heart
• affects – influences, brings a change
• damp – a little bit wet
• conditions – situation e.g. the house, location
• infectious – spreads the disease
• research – scientific studies
• vaccine – an injection which can stop the disease
• Budget – every year the government has a Budget which tells us how tax money will be spent