Rheumatic fever rates drop 24 per cent

  • Jonathan Coleman

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says national rheumatic fever rates have dropped significantly.

“The Government is committed to making progress on issues that affect our vulnerable young people,” says Dr Coleman.

“Rheumatic fever is a serious disease which usually starts with a sore throat and can lead to lifelong heart problems.

“It is great to see that rheumatic fever rates have continued trending downward since 2013. The latest figures show a 24 per cent decrease in first episode rheumatic fever hospitalisations since 2012. This reflects the hard work being carried out in communities most at risk of rheumatic fever.

“The Government has invested more than $65 million on a range of initiatives in high incidence areas to prevent rheumatic fever.

“These initiatives are making a difference, but there is more work to be done towards achieving the target of reducing rheumatic fever by two thirds by June 2017, as well as ensuring gains we make now are sustainable.”

Dr Coleman today visited Porirua Union and Community Health Service which operates a free sore throat drop-in clinic.

The latest statistics show 135 people were hospitalised for the first time with rheumatic fever in 2014/15, a decrease from 175 hospitalisations in 2013/14.

Rheumatic fever hospitalisations for Māori have decreased by 36 per cent since 2012. There has also been a significant drop for Pacific people – with the number of cases falling by 31 per cent since 2013. 


There are a range of initiatives to tackle rheumatic fever including:

  • Targeted drop-in clinics in general practices, secondary schools and pharmacies - offering easy access to free effective care for assessment and management of sore throats in high risk children and young adults.
  • To date, over 25,000 high risk children and young people have had their sore throat checked at a drop-in clinic. There are now over 300 drop-in clinics in Northland, Auckland, Counties Manukau, Waitemata, Waikato, Rotorua, Tairawhiti, Porirua, and the Hutt Valley.
  • In addition, children are also being assessed and treated for sore throats through school-based services in around 200 North Island schools.
  • Healthy Homes Initiatives in all high incidence areas are offering packages of housing-related interventions to over 3,000 families each year.
  • Over 30,000 Auckland and Wellington Pacific families have been engaged through home visits and community events to raise awareness of rheumatic fever and what they can do to prevent it.
  • This year’s rheumatic fever awareness raising campaign started in April with TV, online and radio advertising.