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Community screening for Strep infections and kidney disease in Cape York children wrapping up

30 August 2019

A community screening program for a Strep bacteria-related infectious skin condition in the Weipa–Mapoon–Napranum is wrapping up this week.

The program is checking children within the three-community area for skin infections that can lead to kidney disease.

Public Health Physician Dr Steven Donohue said there’s still an opportunity for people to bring their children in to get checked.

“If your child is aged between 12 months and 17 years, and you haven’t had the opportunity to go to a clinic yet, there’s still time to get screened,” he said.

“Thanks to the hard work by our staff, and the assistance provided by Apunipima, local council, schools, childcare centres and the community, we have screened more than 1300 young people, and treated nearly 700 children for identified conditions such as skin sores, scabies or sore throats.

“The Strep bacteria that has prompted this screening program is highly infectious. That’s why our aim is to screen as many of the target age group as possible to identify those with infectious conditions and then treat them to stop the spread of the infection.’’
Dr Donohue said the next step needed was a community-wide effort to improve skin health and reduce skin sores and scabies.

“The screening operations to find and treat children with infections really are an emergency measure, and a costly one,” he said.

“Good hygiene is a far better preventive measure and helps ensure that kidney complications don’t occur in the first place.

“Residents can prevent skin infections, and kidney complications, in children by first aid for minor injuries and regular washing or swimming.”

  • You should wash your hands and body with soap, sleep in a clean bed, wash your sheets and towels regularly and wash and wear clean clothes every day.
  • Children need to be helped to use soap and to wash properly.
  • Please also keep your house and yard clean and dispose of garbage properly.
  • Check for skin sores and possible scabies (itch mites) in family members often.
  • If your child has sores, first aid is washing and soaking off crusts, possibly a mild antiseptic and a clean dry dressing. Cut the fingernails to prevent further broken skin that can also get infected. Then show them to someone at your local health centre.

Dr Donohue said the kidney disease was a complication of the Group A Streptococcus bacteria responsible for the outbreak of skin sores and scabies in the communities.

“Certain strains of these Group A Strep bacterium can cause immune reactions harmful to the kidneys and this can lead to short-term kidney problems or kidney failure later in life,’’ he said.

“The kidney damage is called Acute Post-Streptococcal Glomerulonephritis (APSGN). Most often this occurs in children.

“A cluster of kidney disease (nephritis) cases – such as the initial three identified in the Weipa–Mapoon–Napranum area – signals the need for a major drive to get rid of skin sores and scabies in those communities.’’
Symptoms to look out for are skin sores, itch from scabies, or a sore throat. A puffy face and limbs, or sometimes reddish urine, could signal kidney problems.

High blood pressure, passing blood in the urine, fever, headache, anorexia, nausea, or vomiting also can result from kidney issues.

“Treatment for APSGN is generally simple, through antibiotics and, if necessary, medication to control blood pressure,’’ he said.

“Most people make a good recovery without lasting long-term effects.

“Anyone with any concerns, or currently exhibiting symptoms, should visit the primary health care centres at Mapoon and Napranum or Weipa Hospital for advice.”

PHOTO CAPTION: Members of the screening team.

Last updated: 18 September 2019