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What is acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease?
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What is acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease?

Rheumatic heart disease is a serious disease that causes damage to your heart valves.

Key takeaways

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Maori and Pacific Islander peoples are at high risk of acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease.  
  • It is important to get your sore throat or skin infection checked by your doctor so a Strep A infection can be treated before acute rheumatic fever  develops.  
  • Acute rheumatic fever can cause inflammation of the heart, which can progress to rheumatic heart disease causing heart failure, disability and death.  
In Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Maori and Pacific Islander peoples are at high risk of acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease. 

Young people aged five to 15 years are most often affected.   

What is Acute Rheumatic Fever?  

Germs (bacteria) called Group A Streptococcus (also known as Strep A infection) can cause infection in your throat or skin (sores). Sometimes your body’s immune system gets confused and instead of fighting the germs, it starts attacking itself – this is called acute rheumatic fever or more commonly ARF. 

You may experience few symptoms, or a combination, and these symptoms do not all occur together.  

See your doctor or healthcare professional if you experience ANY of these symptoms. 

What is rheumatic heart disease? 

Rheumatic heart disease, also referred to as RHD is a serious condition that causes damage to your heart valves. Heart valves help make sure that blood flows in the right direction through the heart. If a valve is damaged, it might not close or open properly meaning some blood may flow backwards.  

How can you prevent acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease?

You need to get a sore throat or skin scores checked by a doctor of health professional so a Strep A infection can be treated before acute rheumatic fever develops.   

  • Your doctor will give you a medicine called antibiotics to fight the Strep A infection. Even if you start feeling better, it is important to finish the entire course of antibiotics.    
  • You can receive reminders for regular antibiotics injections to prevent acute rheumatic fever on the Treatment Tracker app. 

Rheumatic Heart Disease Australia (RHDAustralia)  

The Heart Foundation is working with RHDAustralia to support the prevention, diagnosis and management of acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease.  

For more information visit the RHDAustralia website.  

Watch Video: 
Take Heart Films: learn more about preventing acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease.  

Michael’s Story: watch the story of a 14-year-old Aboriginal boy named Michael and his Aunty Mary to learn what to do if your child or family member has an episode of acute rheumatic fever.   






You need to get a sore throat or skin scores checked by a doctor of health professional so a Strep A infection can be treated before acute rheumatic fever develops.

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