23 May 2011

Rheumatic fever funding will save money - minister

6:40 pm on 23 May 2011

Health Minister Tony Ryall says $12 million in the Budget for tackling rheumatic fever will save the health sector a lot of money in the long term.

Rates of the disease - which can cause heart problems - are 14 times higher in New Zealand than any other OECD country.

And rates for Māori and Pacific Island children, aged between five and 14, are 20 to 40 times higher than for others the same age.

Mr Ryall says communities with a high prevalence of the disease will be targeted.

He says children with sore throats will have swabs taken, as Streptoccucus A infections can lead to rheumatic fever.

Mr Ryall says rheumatic fever patients can require penicillin injections monthly for 10 years, followed by cardiac surgery.