Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) is a preventable and treatable form of cardiovascular disease (CVD) that affects over 32 million people around the world and claims 275 000 lives annually. It is a neglected disease that thrives in areas of poverty, inequality and inadequate medical services. In Africa it affects 1.5% to 3% of children.
RHD is the most commonly acquired heart disease in young people under the age of 25 in Africa. It most often begins in childhood as strep throat. If left untreated, RHD may progress to serious heart damage that kills or debilitates adolescents and young adults, and makes pregnancy hazardous.
Although virtually eliminated in Europe and North America, the disease remains common in Africa, the Middle East, Central and South Asia, the South Pacific, and in impoverished pockets of developed nations.
The African Heart Network supports the global movement to reduce premature mortality from RHD and contributes to the World Heart Federation’s goal to achieve a 25% reduction in premature deaths from rheumatic fever and RHD among individuals aged <25 years by 2025.