Rheumatic Fever Week 2018

06 Aug 2018
Heart health
Look after your heart
06 Aug 2018

More than 27 years ago, the National Department of Health declared the first week of August what is now known as Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease Awareness Week. Each year the first week of August is dedicated to highlighting and raising awareness about this entirely preventable disease which causes unnecessary death and suffering amongst the poorest communities in our country. This Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease Awareness Week (6-12 August 2018) and in memory of Professor Bongani Mayosi, who tirelessly championed the fight against RHD, we call on health leaders in South Africa to pay attention to the devastation that the disease continues to inflict.

“Rheumatic heart disease is the leading cause of acquired heart disease in children and young adults in South Africa, and the sixth highest cause of death due to heart disease. There is a need to prioritise prevention of the disease and the control of rheumatic fever,” says Dr Vash Mungal-Singh, Vice President of the World Heart Federation.

Globally, as many as 34 million people suffer from rheumatic heart disease, and up to 319,400 people die prematurely from the disease each year. The cause of the disease is rheumatic fever, which is the consequence of an untreated sore throat resulting from an autoimmune reaction to a streptococcal infection, known as strep throat. The travesty of this situation is that controlling a strep throat is effective and inexpensive, with antibiotics that have been around for over a century, which is why experts urge parents to never ignore a sore throat.

Raising awareness about RHD and its cause is therefore imperative to preventing the disease which in turn is integral to its eradication. Professor Mayosi strongly believed that South Africa has the conditions required for success in eradicating ARF and ending RHD, so let’s all pay tribute to him by making his vision a reality.