Rheumatic Fever

Rheumatic fever is serious.

It often starts with a sore throat.

Without treatment, some sore throats can cause rheumatic fever which can lead to life-threatening heart disease.



Rheumatic fever is an autoimmune disease which can be caused by untreated strep throat. It happens when your immune system makes a mistake and attacks other parts of your body, as well as the strep throat germs. 


Rheumatic fever is a serious illness that can cause damage in your heart as well as swelling and pain in your hips, knees, ankles, elbows, and wrists. You may also notice a skin rash, fever, or jerky movements. Over time, most of these symptoms will go away but any damage to your heart may be permanent.​

A strep throat infection can lead to rheumatic fever, even if it's the first time or a one-off. The risk of getting rheumatic fever gets higher when someone has repeated untreated strep throat infections.  


  • Rheumatic fever often starts with a SORE THROAT that is known as ‘strep throat’ – a throat infection caused by a bacteria called Group A Streptococcus.

  • Without treatment, strep throat can cause rheumatic fever.

  • A family history of Rheumatic Fever means you have a higher risk of rheumatic fever

  • Rheumatic Fever causes life-threatening heart damage.


  • Treatment is simple and will be provided by your GP clinic or school health clinic.

  • Antibiotics are FREE.

  • Take your prescribed antibiotics for the full 10 days or get one bicillin injection to kill all the bugs.



  • ALL sore throats in Maori & Pacific children need to be checked at your GP clinic or school health clinic.

  • If strep throat is not treated with antibiotics it can cause rheumatic fever.
  • Keep your home warm and dry, having more warm rooms and more sleeping spaces available means germs like strep throat are less likely to spread.

Download your information booklet on Rheumatic Fever HERE. (English)

SAMOAN language information HERE.

TONGAN language information HERE.

COOK ISLAND MAORI language information HERE.


"New Zealand's Heart-breaker" - a RNZ Story

Joseph Tuala is a member of the Pacific People's Health Advisory Group, supported by Alliance Health Plus.


In 2019 we arranged for him to speak with Radio New Zealand to share his powerful story.

Read the full article.

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