Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) is 100% preventable.
Acute Rheumatic Fever (ARF) is caused by the Group A Streptococcus bacteria (or Strep germs).
What is Strep: Group A Streptococcal Bacteria?
"The strep bug is an old bug that we've known about for a long time that causes a variety of illnesses. The ones that most people know about are sore throat. That's the most common bacterial cause of sore throat. I think most people in the world have experienced strep throat." Associate Professor Andrew Steer.
"A few weeks following a streptococcal infection, an auto-immune reaction starts and there are current theories that your antibodies in your body confuse the streptococcal infection with the heart valve itself." Dr Bo Remenyi
How does Step: Group A Streptococcal infection become Acute Rheumatic Fever (ARF)?
"This reaction of rheumatic fever, it's in fact a very interesting reaction. The damage is caused by antibodies and cells that are trying to attack the germs in the throat. They do attack the germs in the throat, the strep in the throat that they result in the removal of the strep in the throat, but at the same time, the heart valves are caught in the cross fire." Professor Bongani Mayosi.
"Actually your own body that leads to the problem, rather than the bacteria itself. " Dr Bo Remenyi
"We tend to see that problem in younger people. Older people have less of that. Sometimes we think younger people have got a very good immune system. It's so good. In case of strep, that is attacking yourself." Professor Bongani Mayosi.
What can be done to treat Strep: Group A Streptococcal Infection
"People need to know that skin sores need to be treated. The sore throats need to be treated. People in the community need to know that sore joints could be rheumatic fever, and it means the children should be taken to a hospital urgently." Dr Bo Remenyi
"Secondary prevention is in patients who have known rheumatic fever, or establish rheumatic heart disease. Giving them regular penicillin every 3 weeks." Associate Professor Andrew Steer
"We're saturating the body with penicillin so that when you are exposed to the strep, the body, as it touches your throat, it gets killed by the penicillin, so that it now the strategy to protect you from the strep and you need to be on this for life." Professor Bongani Mayosi.
"There's mild symptoms when people do not present to hospitals. Other ways to pick up rheumatic disease early is screening children at school before they are sick enough to come to the hospital." Dr Bo Remenyi
"Screening was originally performed by just with a stethoscope and listen to the chest, and what we've learned is that that's not as good as using a cardiac ultrasound, or a cardiogram." Associate Professor Andrew Steer.
"We need to evolve technology. Now there are portable echo machines. Maybe a new way of doing things is going out to schools. You're using technology to detect really mild cases of rheumatic heart disease early." Dr Bo Remenyi
"There's no doubt. There is no doubt that we, as adults, we as caregivers, we as parents, we as teachers, we as medical doctors, we as nurses, have really got that responsibility to transmit knowledge and to take care of the children to make sure what they have a lowly sore throat, it is not ignored." Professor Bongani Mayosi.
Key points about Strep: Group A Streptococcal Infection
Strep is highly contagious, easy to spread through close contact and sharing.
Overcrowding is a known factor contributing to the spread of Strep.
Strep gets into your body from a sore throat (Strep Throat) or infected skin sores (including Scabies).
This damage is called Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD).
If a child you know has:
Infected skin sores
Go to the health clinic to check it.
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