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Health authorities managing kidney infection in NPA children

14 June 2019

Three new cases of kidney disease in children in the Northern Peninsula Area (NPA) of Cape York have led to a regional alert and a large screening and treatment response in the area.

This will start in the NPA from 18 June.

Public Health Physician Dr Steven Donohue said the identified infection, Acute Post-Streptococcal Glomerulonephritis (APSGN), was a complication of strep bacteria from skin sores and throat infections.

“Certain strains of these bacteria cause immune reactions in the kidneys and this can lead on to kidney problems later in life if not treated,’’ he said.

“A cluster of kidney disease (nephritis) cases signals the need for a major drive to get rid of skin sores and scabies in those communities.’’

Dr Donohue said community screening meant that children with sores and throat infections would be treated with injections of long-acting penicillin.

Those with signs suggesting kidney disease would be referred to hospital for further assessment.

Dr Donohue said this was the second screening program for APSGN in the Northern Peninsula Area following a similar program in February. A previous cluster of 8 confirmed cases was identified early in the year.

“We want to beef up our hygiene and health promotion programs to prevent nephritis outbreaks into the future,’’ he said.
The new screening program will target all children between from the ages of 12 months up to 17 years, totalling about 1300 in the region.

“This is the most at-risk group,’’ Dr Donohue said.

Symptoms to look out for are a puffy face and limbs, skin sores and sometimes reddish urine.

High blood pressure, infected scabies and the passing of blood in the urine were associated with the condition, Dr Donohue said.

An affected person also could have fever, headache, anorexia, nausea, or vomiting.

“Treatment is generally simple, through a single injection of antibiotics and, if necessary, medication to control blood pressure,’’ he said.

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

Dr Donohue said the screening program in the NPA would explore all avenues to identify any undetected case and provide treatment to those with identifiable symptoms.

“Anyone with any concerns, or currently exhibiting symptoms, should visit their nearest primary health care centre or Bamaga Hospital for advice,’’ he said.

Dr Donohue said NPA residents could prevent skin infections, and kidney complications, in children by first aid for minor injuries and regular swimming and washing.

  • 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 you find sores, you need to show them to someone at your local health centre.

“As well as controlling the spread of skin infections, good hygiene also is vital in helping ensure kidney infection cases do not occur in the first place,’’ Dr Donohue said.

Apart from the clustering of APSGN cases in the NPA in January and February this year, previous clusters occurred in 2013 on Thursday and Saibai islands and on Thursday Island in
2008.

PHOTO CAPTION: NPA APSGN screening team

Last updated: 21 June 2019