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Strong response to screening program under way in NPA

21 June 2019

A community screening program currently under way in the Northern Peninsula Area has received strong support.

The program is checking all children for skin infections that can lead to kidney disease.

Public Health Physician Dr Steven Donohue, who is leading the screening program which started on 18 June, said he was very happy with the response so far.

“To date, we have screened more than 300 young people aged from 12 months up to 17 years old, out of a total resident population of about 1200 in that age group,’’ he said.

“The program will continue for another two weeks.

“I’d like to thank the communities of the Northern Peninsula Area, as well as key government and non-government organisations for their great support following this latest kidney disease outbreak related to skin infections.

“All the schools, child cares, and health services in the NPA are working in partnership on this.’’

Dr 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.

“Untreated skin sores can lead to very bad kidney disease because of the strep germ going around that spreads from child to child or person to person.

“That’s why we are checking ALL children from 12 months up to their 17th birthday for skin sores and possible kidney disease. This is the most at-risk group.

“In the next week, beginning 24 June, if your child missed out on being checked, please make sure you bring them up.

“If local kids are going away or coming back for the school holidays, they must be checked too.

“Our hard-working Health Workers will be going around to find any children who missed out. It is very important that ALL our children get checked to keep them healthy.’’

Dr Donohue said, so far, two possible new cases of APSGN had been identified other than the original three confirmed cases that prompted the latest screening program.

A previous screening program was undertaken in February, following an earlier outbreak when eight cases were identified.

Dr Donohue said symptoms to look out for were 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.

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

Dr Donohue said NPA residents could prevent skin infections, and subsequent 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 at any age, wash them, apply a bandage and show them to staff at your local health centre.
Last updated: 24 July 2019