Strep Throat to Rheumatic Heart Disease

Rheumatic heart disease starts with children
as young as five. Then wreaks havoc on the human heart, sometimes
for years, until it kills. Each year rheumatic heart disease—called
RHD for short–is responsible for nearly a quarter-million deaths. So many people in low-income regions needlessly
lose their lives to a disease that is easily prevented . . . so easily prevented that it
is all but gone in the industrialized world. Most people in the industrialized world never
heard of RHD. That’s because the disease targets its 15
million victims in the world’s lowest income regions, where care is fractured. Almost all people facing RHD are at the end
of the health care road. Like Olivia… Hi, I’m Olivia. I’m from a small village where people get
really sick from RHD. Most of them don’t know they have it, or
if they do, how they got it. They don’t know how to treat it and they
don’t know to prevent it. But you know what? I’ve learned about RHD, and I’m going
to tell them about it. I’ll say: rheumatic heart disease can be
prevented. RHD is caused by a bacteria called Streptococcus
A. And that causes: Strep throat. If you don’t treat strep throat, it can
lead to rheumatic fever. And if you don’t treat rheumatic fever,
you can get rheumatic heart disease. Strep throat to rheumatic fever to rheumatic
heart disease–1, 2, 3. And each step, from one to three is worse:
it becomes more costly to treat and it’s more painful. You can’t play football or games. And you can’t see your friends because you’re
sick all the time. Treating strep throat—step one–though,
is simple — You can use penicillin pills for a week, or get one injection of penicillin,
then strep throat goes away. End of story. Really! Without the pills or the shot, someone with
RHD could face years of painful shots or worse. It’s better to get just one . . . early! But what happens if don’t treat strep throat? What if you don’t have penicillin, or you
don’t have a doctor, or a nurse or a health care worker? Then, yes, you could be in trouble. A lot of people in villages like mine and
people in big cities, too, have no medical help to treat strep throat with penicillin. If people like my friends . . . people in
poor villages and cities . . . don’t treat strep throat, they can develop rheumatic fever
and that can lead to rheumatic heart disease. That could really damage their hearts, even
kill them. When children live in poor, crowded homes,
they share the strep germs with their brothers and sisters. Damp conditions make it worse, their strep
throat becomes rheumatic fever and their joints swell. Before you know it, the fever damages the
heart valves and then children end up very sick, they can’t breathe easily or play
with their friends. I know children who have died from RHD and
have friends whose mothers and older sisters have died when they were pregnant because
they also had rheumatic heart disease. It’s sad. I miss them. RHD kills 250,000 people every year. That’s like four times the number of people
who can fill a really large football stadium. To survive RHD can require expensive surgery
and a lifetime of expensive medication and even then people don’t feel really well. SO: What can we do? How can we help? A place to start is to teach people about
RHD and strep throat. That’s why I’m sharing this information
with you. It’s so important! I would like you and people everywhere to
understand RHD . . . RHD may be invisible in many places, but it still ruins millions
of lives and kills hundreds of thousands of poor people around the world. We head off RHD by treating strep throat,
yes. But we must do something else: We must teach
people about it. Knowledge about RHD gives us the power to
stop it. So be like me — Educate parents and teachers
and public officials and kids who go to school . . . after all kids are most likely to get
strep throat. Teach everyone what symptoms to watch for,
then to know what to do. Remember: One–we can stop strep throat. That avoids two, rheumatic fever, and three,
rheumatic heart disease. Stop strep avoid RHD. When people learn about RHD, they learn how
to save lives.

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