ARF and RHD
Guest Blog by Vicki Wade, Cultural Lead, National Heart Foundation, Australia.
There are over 15.6 million people worldwide living with Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) and another 1.9 million with a history of Acute Rheumatic Fever (ARF) that have not gone on to develop RHD.
In Australia the so called ‘lucky country’ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples mostly babies, young children and youth are dying and suffering from RHD, a condition that has been eradicated in all other developed countries. This, I believe is our national shame requiring ongoing attention from government and health professionals.
The National Heart Foundation of Australia has been involved in the quest to reduce the rates of Acute Rheumatic Fever and improving the care of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with Rheumatic Heart Disease for many years now.
I have met a lot of children facing heart surgery from the effects that RHD has on the valves of the heart, they are very brave but at the same time scared ….my heart always goes out to them and their families who can have a life time of hospitals and repeated surgery. Some of the families I have met have two or three children who face heart surgery.
People with ARF and RHD can get very sick quite quickly and endure a life time of suffering from heart failure and pain. It is critical to the long term outcome that people with ARF are diagnosed early, I am continually surprised that many health professionals do not know how ARF is contacted, the signs and symptoms and how to diagnose ARF. There is no single test that can diagnose ARF but requires good clinical skills.
We need to get the health messages out to health professionals and to communities. Rheumatic Heart Disease Australia (RHDA) has a number of educational resources and a very useful website where you can do some on line training on signs and symptoms and treatment for ARF and RHD.
I urge all health professionals to take interest in ARF and RHD to learn about the signs and symptoms of ARF. If we act early and stop ARF damaging the heart we can reduce a lot of suffering and prevent our babies dying from a disease that has been wiped out in other developed countries.
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