Acute Rheumatic Fever

This section discusses diagnoses of acute rheumatic fever (ARF) reported by the RHD control programs. The total number of ARF diagnoses recorded is dependent on the reporting practices to the various RHD registers. Diagnoses made between 2013 and 2017 are the focus of this report. A person may have multiple diagnoses of ARF in their lifetime, so the number of diagnoses is greater than the number of people. This analysis focuses on the number of diagnoses.

It is likely that ARF diagnoses are under-reported to registers in all jurisdictions. Although the RHD registers in each state and territory were functional for the entire analysis period they were relatively new in some states (Box 1). Clinician awareness and reporting to the registers would have been increasing in the early years, and may still be improving. Under-diagnosis and under-reporting to the register means some individuals are not captured in this analysis.

Box 1: Acute rheumatic fever/rheumatic heart disease registers

  • NT RHD register has been collecting data since 1997. (The NT register incorporates information from a prior collection).
  • QLD RHD register commenced in 2009 (but includes ARF data from 1999 when ARF become notifiable). 
  • WA RHD register commenced in 2009 (though reporting of RHD only became mandatory in 2015).
  • SA RHD register commenced in 2012.

All four jurisdictions with RHD registers have different notification and data collection practices and therefore the numbers, data quality and completeness in the RHD registers are variable.