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Strong response to successful screening program in NPA

5 July 2019

A community screening program for an infectious skin condition currently under way in the Northern Peninsula Area is nearly complete and has received strong local support.

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

Tropical Public Health Services (Cairns) Director Dr Richard Gair said he was very happy with the response to the screening program, which started on 18 June.

“To date, we have screened more than 950 young people aged from 12 months up to 17 years old, out of a total resident population of about 1030 in that age group,’’ he said.

“Initially, we calculated the target age group at about 1300 persons but have found a number of children either no longer live in the NPA or are away at boarding school.

“Our aim has always been to screen 90 per cent or more of the resident target age group and we have achieved that target now.

“There may be some residual work done over the next week or so but, to all intents and purposes, the bulk of the screening program is now complete.

“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 have worked in partnership on this.’’

Dr Gair 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 which affect 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 check ALL children from 12 months up to their 17th birthday for skin sores and possible kidney disease. This is the most at-risk group.’’

Dr Gair said a total of six confirmed cases of APSGN had been identified so far – three initial cases that had prompted the current screening program and three further cases identified subsequently as part of the screening.

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

Dr Gair 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 also were associated with the condition, he said.

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

“Treatment for APSGN is generally simple, through a single injection of antibiotics and, if necessary, medication to control blood pressure,’’ Dr Gair 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 Gair 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 at any age, wash them, apply a bandage and show them to staff at your local health centre.
Last updated: 24 July 2019