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Rheumatic heart disease and acute rheumatic fever for health professionals

Acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease are closely related preventable diseases associated with poverty and disadvantaged populations.

Rheumatic heart disease develops after repeated episodes of acute rheumatic fever (ARF). ARF is an illness caused by a reaction to a bacterial infection with Group A Streptococcus, and mainly occurs during childhood and adolescence. In South Australia, ARF and RHD occur mostly among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

People diagnosed with ARF or RHD require long term regular injections of long acting penicillin, every three to four weeks. This is known as secondary prophylaxis and prevents disease progression.

Clinical diagnosis and management

The Australian guideline for prevention, diagnosis and management of acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease, developed by RHD Australia, is the main source of information to guide all aspects of ARF and RHD across Australia. 

Notification of rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease

Rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease are notifiable diseases in South Australia under the South Australian Public Health Act 2011. These diseases must be notified to the Communicable Disease Control Branch within three days of suspecting or confirming a diagnosis on 1300 232 272 during business hours or using the notification form (PDF 831KB).

SA Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) Register

The SA Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) Register aims to improve the management of patients with ARF and RHD by assisting clinics with identifying individuals with poor adherence to secondary prophylaxis, monitoring patient movements, and providing health professional education and training. 

Consent is still required to enrol people on the South Australian Rheumatic Heart Disease Register.

Annual reports

2016 was a successful year for the SA RHD Control Program. The SA RHD Register has grown significantly and there are now over 250 patients on the Register. See below for copies of the annual reports which include statistics on the register as well as other achievements over the year:

ARF and RHD elearning modules

Free, accredited e-learning from basic through to advanced level education on all aspects of the prevention, diagnosis and management of acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease is available through the RHD Australia website.

“Don’t miss out on the things you love” calendar

Together with the Aboriginal community in South Australia, the SA Rheumatic Heart Disease Control Program has developed a calendar (PDF 8278KB) to be used as an educational tool for people with rheumatic fever and/or rheumatic heart disease. It aims to improve knowledge about rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease through simple messages and testimonials.

A support resource (PDF 2130KB) has also been developed to guide clinicians through the use of the calendar as an education tool.

To order copies of the calendar for your patients, email your details to rhd@sa.gov.au

Rheumatic Heart Disease Calendar - Don&apost miss out on the things you love

Model Standing Drug Orders

Bicillin Model Standing Drug Order

A Model Standing Drug Order (SDO) for the delivery of benzathine penicillin (Bicillin-LA) has now been approved for implementation at health services if appropriate.

This is a model standing drug order. The procedure to adopt this at your health service is within the standing drug order.

This SDO should only be implemented if your health service has its own local procedure/guideline in place for managing anaphylaxis including access to adrenaline.

Further information

For further information on RHD or ARF, email rhd@sa.gov.au or phone (08) 7425 7146.

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