National Rheumatic Heart Disease Week
5–9 August 2019
Over 27 years ago, the national Department of Health declared the first week of August National Rheumatic Heart Disease week in order to focus on the need to reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease in South Africa.
Rheumatic heart disease remains the leading cause of acquired cardiac lesions in children. It still carries high morbidity and mortality rates, both in South Africa and in most developing countries around the world. It is estimated that more than 30 million people are currently affected with rheumatic heart disease and up to 305 000 people die from complications of rheumatic heart disease each year.
Rheumatic fever is a preventable disease that is caused by an autoimmune reaction to a streptococcal throat infection. If the sore throat that begins the cycle of rheumatic heart disease is treated with very low-cost, easily accessible antibiotics, then the progression to acute rheumatic fever can be stopped. A sore throat should never be ignored.
The Division of Paediatric Cardiology based at Steve Biko Academic Hospital provides a comprehensive and concise service for all congenital and acquired cardiac conditions in children. Our services include providing outreach and education to all our referral hospitals and clinics in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. We also provide cardiac and surgical services, including valvular repair and replacement when indicated.
Paediatric cardiologists from throughout Africa are joining hands to combat the scourge of rheumatic heart disease. Lessons from all over the continent are being shared and harnessed in order to ensure that simple measures are implemented at the primary healthcare level. A strong and effective primary healthcare service will go a long way towards ensuring a win in the fight against the rheumatic heart disease.
Let us use this week as an opportunity to raise awareness among our healthcare workers, primary healthcare staff and colleagues about the need to prevent rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease. Every streptococcal sore throat treated is another child’s heart saved! Let us all be advocates for better HEART care for our children.
Dr Jayneel Joshi
Division of Paediatric Cardiology
Department of Paediatrics and Child Health
University of Pretoria / Steve Biko Academic Hospital