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Successful screening program for infectious skin condition on NPA

22 February 2019

Health authorities have successfully undertaken a screening program on Cape York’s Northern Peninsula Area for a highly contagious bacterial skin infection that can lead to kidney disease if left untreated.

Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service Northern Director of Medical Services Dr Marlow Coates said the screening program for Acute Post-Streptococcal Glomerulonephritis (APSGN), had been under way in the NPA since 4 February, following a cluster of cases in the region.

“We identified five cases initially and that has since increased to eight, though of course others could still be diagnosed,’’ he said.

“However, the screening program we undertook in the NPA was very successful with about 80 per cent of the most at-risk target population of children and young people between the ages of 12 months and 17 years being screened.

“We ended up identifying 1071 children and young people in the target group and we screened 850 of those.

“I’d like to thank the five NPA communities of Bamaga, Seisia, Injinoo, New Mapoon and Umagico for their very strong support of our screening program.

“Our staff worked hard to carry out the screening and the communities gave us great cooperation.

“The Northern Peninsula Area Family and Community Services also gave us great support and provided two teams of health workers to assist with the screening program.

“We couldn’t have reached the high proportion of young people screened that we achieved without the support of the communities and the Northern Peninsula Area Family and Community Services.

“A big thank you to all.’’

Dr Coates said screening was undertaken at two primary schools and a high school, four day care centres, through numerous home visits in all five communities and at the primary health care centres.

“The community response to the screening program was so good that we had queues of people lining up at our screening locations to ask questions and get more information,’’ he said.

“Although the formal screening program is now complete, we are still doing some opportunistic screening and people should continue looking out for the symptoms of APSGN.

“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 are associated with the condition.

“An affected person also can have fever, headache, anorexia, nausea, and vomiting.

“So, if your child has any of these symptoms, please go to your local primary health care centre for a check-up.’’

Dr Coates said if untreated, the condition could lead to more serious problems such as chronic kidney problems and even death, so they should never be ignored.

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

“Most people make a good recovery with no evidence of any lasting long-term effects.’’

Dr Coates said NPA residents also could ensure the skin infection did not spread by maintaining good personal hygiene.

  • 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 scabies on family members often.
  • If you find sores, you need to show them to someone at your local health centre.
  • If the infection persists, you should visit your local health centre to have the condition examined and ensure it is not one of the more serious types of infection.

Clustering of cases of APSGN generally occur around every five years in the Torres Strait/NPA region.

Previous cases occurred in 2013 on Thursday and Saibai islands and in 2008, on Thursday Island.

Nearly 1200 children were screened during 2013 on both affected islands and more than 600 on Thursday Island in 2008.

As APSGN is not a notifiable condition within Queensland, there is incomplete data as to how many cases may occur annually.

Last updated: 1 March 2019