Mortality Surges In Children With Rheumatic Heart Diseases



By Leocadia Bongben

Parents now have a reason to worry when a child is down with severe fever because this could be a symptom of Rheumatic Heart Disease.

Angel Yaya, eight years was rushed to the Shisong Cardiac Centre when she had severe fever but little did her parents expect what they heard.

Following medical investigation, the medics discovered that Yaya besides the acute rheumatic fever had joint pains, tonsils that were inflamed and jerky movements.

The doctor dropped the bomb; Yaya has a condition that does not allow her heart to pump blood well, known as Rheumatic heart disease.

Dr. Tantchou explains that acute Rheumatic fever (caused by a preceding Group A streptococcal infection, simply put, bacteria) has the ability to cause fibrosis of the heart valves leading to crippling valvular heart disease, heart failure and death.

The cardiologist says rheumatic fevers affect mostly the tonsils, heart, the central nervous system and kidneys of the children.

Tantchou disclosed that the main pathology diagnosed is when the sickness has attacked the valves and the children develop heart failure. Heart failure is a situation where there is a problem with the valves, blood no longer flows normally and the left ventricle is dilated or doesn’t contract –the ventricle no long pumps blood well and the patient swells.

Follow- up compensation or palliative treatment of heart failure only permits the patient to be fine though still having a problem,  the system adjusts and the child would be as if there is no problem, but in the long run have to go for surgery, Tantchou says.

The cardiologists recommends  that a child with fever should be taken to a hospital but also  appeals for  the improvement  of sanitation and housing  conditions, good water and water closets not defecating in the bush and given that the water runs back for children to  drink .

“A child with sore throat and infections should be treated with antibiotics”, he says.

Prof. Samuel Kingue, Cardiologist, President of the Cameroon Cardiac Society, warns, “We should not play with sore throats, they should be treated with antibiotics, amoxicillin and ampicillin which effectively kill the germs”.

“Though not all sore throats are caused by bacteria, treatment with antibiotics is a good way of preventing complications in the heart called rheumatic heart disease”.

“Rheumatic heart diseases occur in children who suffer from untreated sore throats and this may lead to heart failure”, Kingue states.

“We followed cases of rheumatic heart diseases, for five years during which 75 percent of the children died and 100 children die every year from rheumatic heart disease in Cameroon, and concluded that mortality is high in children with rheumatic heart diseases”, Tantchou explained.

Statistics from the World Heart Foundation indicate that the burden of rheumatic heart diseases is weighing on developing countries like Cameroon with about 233,000 deaths per year.

Surgery for children with rheumatic heart diseases like most heart surgeries is still very expensive pegged at about 3.8mmilion for normal surgery and 11 million with complications huge amounts out of reach for poor income families.

The Verdzekov Heart Foundation of the Cardiac Centre has been doing a lot to source for founding to foot the bills of the underprivileged without which many would die for want of money for the operation.

Against this backdrop the open door day of the cardiac centre, on the theme “Cardiac and Vascular events” was to showcase cardiac surgery, inverse treatment of congenital and acquired heart diseases, Rev. Sister Jethro Nkenglefac, the Centre’s Manager said.

That is why on March 16, the centre reached to the population that treatment for heart diseases is available in Cameroon done in with good success like in other foreign countries.

More than 400 open heart surgeries, 100 pacemaker implants and interventional and diagnostic catheterizations have been carried out at this unique centre, in west and central Africa.

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About Camerscience

Science Journalist, Cameroon, Diploma in Science Mentoring from the World Federation of science Journalists, WFSJ

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