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Med J Aust. 1990 Sep 17;153(6):335, 338-9.

Acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease in a rural central Australian aboriginal community.

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Department of Health and Community Services, Alice Springs, NT.


A retrospective study of clinical case records was conducted at the health centre of a rural central Australian Aboriginal community to determine the frequency of acute rheumatic fever and of rheumatic heart disease between 1978 and 1987. The case records of 976 residents over 5 years of age were examined for evidence of the clinical indicators of acute rheumatic fever or rheumatic heart disease; together they contributed 8015 person-years of study. During the 10-year study period, 18 patients developed acute rheumatic fever and 12 patients had rheumatic heart disease. The annual incidence of acute rheumatic fever (first and recurrent attacks) for children aged 5-14 years was 815 per 100,000 person-years. For the residents aged 5 years and over, the point prevalence for rheumatic heart disease at the end of 1987 was between 7.9 and 12.3 per 1000 persons, according to health clinic records and the official population census, respectively. These rates are similar to those reported for Third World countries. Preventive measures must include efforts by health professionals to help to alleviate the adverse living conditions in Aboriginal communities.

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