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The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has released a report which shows that rates of acute rheumatic fever among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians continue to be among the highest in the world, despite the fact that rheumatic fever is rare in most developed countries.
Rheumatic heart disease is a result of acute rheumatic fever, and manifests as permanent damage to the heart muscle or heart valves. In severe cases it can result in serious disability or even death.
The new report uses data on the incidence of acute rheumatic fever and prevalence of rheumatic heart disease from the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australian Rheumatic Heart Disease Registers. Almost all cases of acute rheumatic fever recorded in the Northern Territory between 2005 and 2010 were for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (98%), with 58% of cases occurring in 5-14 year olds.
'In the Northern Territory in 2010, the prevalence rate of rheumatic heart disease among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was 26 times the rate for non-Indigenous people,' AIHW spokesperson Dr Lynelle Moon said.
'What is clear is that large inequalities exist between Indigenous and other Australians when it comes to acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are considerably more likely to be hospitalised with acute rheumatic fever or rheumatic heart disease, and to die from rheumatic heart disease.'
Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare