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Acute rheumatic fever

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Fact sheet - Health conditions directory.

Acute rheumatic fever (ARF) is a notifiable disease that can occur following an infection caused by the Group A Streptococcus bacterium (Strep). If untreated, a Strep infection (ie a 'strep throat' or skin infection) can lead to inflammation in other parts of the body, particularly the joints, brain and heart. Without regular antibiotic treatment, further episodes of ARF can lead to serious damage of the heart valves. This is known as rheumatic heart disease (RHD).

Risk groups for ARF

At high risk

  • Living in an ARF-endemic setting (e.g. ARF incidence >30/100,000 per year in 5 to 14-year-olds or RHD prevalence >2/1000).
  • Aboriginal and /or Torres Strait Islander peoples living in rural or remote settings;
  • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples, and Maori/or Pacific Islander peoples living in metropolitan households affected by crowding and/or lower socioeconomic status.
  • Personal history of ARF/RHD and aged >40 years.
  • Family or household recent history of ARF/RHD.

May be at high risk/additional considerations

  • Family or household recent history of ARF/RHD.
  • Household overcrowding (2 or more people per bedroom) or low socioeconomic status.
  • Migrant or refugee from low-or middle-income country and their children.
  • Prior residence in or frequent recent travel to a high ARF risk setting.
  • Aged 5 to 20 years (peak years for ARF).
Strep infections, ARF and RHD are preventable with improved housing and living conditions and early antibiotic treatment.

Public health management guidelines


Attending medical practitioners/medical superintendents (or delegates)

Notification resources

Resources for health professionals

Last updated: 5 June 2023

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