Increase in Rheumatic Fever

Increase in Rheumatic Fever cases in the Wellington region

Te Whatu Ora has issued an alert regarding an increase in the number of Rheumatic Fever cases in our region this year. Eleven new cases have been reported so far this year. This is a significant increase on the total cases notified in recent years.

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

Most sore throats get better on their own after about four days. But if strep throat is not treated with antibiotics it can cause rheumatic fever in at-risk children and young people.

Most strep throats get better and don’t lead to rheumatic fever. However, in a small number of people, an untreated strep throat develops into rheumatic fever, where their heart, joints (elbows and knees), brain and skin become inflamed and swollen.

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.  


Because rheumatic fever starts with a sore throat, it’s important that your child’s sore throats get checked, especially if you live in Northland, Auckland, around Rotorua and Taupo, Waikato, the Bay of Plenty, Gisborne and the East Coast, Hawke’s Bay, Wellington or the Hutt Valley.

If your child is Māori or Pacific, aged between 4 and 19 years and has a sore throat, please get it checked straight away.

If your child has strep throat, they’ll be given antibiotics to clear up the infection before it can develop into rheumatic fever.