Rheumatic fever in children presents itself with a sore throat and fever Picture: Pexels

South Africa is showing signs of progress in the reduction of rheumatic fever cases, a condition that disproportionately impacts women and children in lower and middle-income.

As Rheumatic Fever Week is from August 6 to 12, The Heart Association and The Heart and Stroke Foundation used the opportunity to pay tribute to Professor Bongani Mayosi, a world-renowned leader of research in this field who died last week.

“Prof Mayosi was instrumental in most of the research that you see in this area of acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease. He and Prof Liesl Zühlke have done tremendous research and pushed boundaries in this area. We are very saddened by his premature passing,” said Dr Hopewell Ntsinjana, head of paediatric cardiology at the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital and University of Witwatersrand, and vice-president of the SA Heart Association.

Mayosi, the dean of health sciences at the University of Cape Town, and world-renowned cardiologist and researcher, died on July 27.

“South Africa is starting to see evidence of early progress in the attempt to try to eliminate RF and RHD. In 2001 we had about 1.3 per 100 000 children, but that incidence has dropped to 0.7 per 100 000, which was recorded around 2012. This is very promising,” Ntsinjana said.

“Contributing factors to rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease itself are around poor socio-economic status, overcrowding, malnutrition and poor access to primary health care. Since the inception of the primary health clinics we started to see a downward trend in South Africa, which is promising. We are not there yet, but it is a good trajectory.”

Rheumatic fever in children presents itself with a sore throat and fever, which could be treated at a local clinic. Untreated, it can lead to rheumatic heart disease because it forms antibodies against certain parts of the body.

Instead of attacking bacteria, it starts attacking your own cells, either in the heart, brain or joints.

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