Drive launched to curb heart disease deaths

Kenyan Heart National Foundation Founder and CEO, Elizabeth Gatumia (right), Francis Kanyingi (center) a Rheumatic Heart Disease survivor and his mother Jane Wangare (left) speaking in commitment to fight Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) in the country. Photo/JEFF ANGOTE

What you need to know:

  • An untreated sore throat could lead to complication that is expensive to treat
  • Children are most affected

Eleven children die daily in Kenya from rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease.

Kenyan Heart National Foundation on Thursday launched an awareness campaign to reverse the high number of deaths caused by untreated ‘strep-sore-throats’ in children that later develop into rheumatic heart disease.

“The disease arises from a sore throat which is ignored or treated with a pair of lozenges, without consulting a doctor,” said KHNF chief executive Elizabeth Gatumia on Thursday at the Serena Hotel.

The ‘strep-sore-throat’ develops into rheumatic fever and later progresses to rheumatic heart disease whereas a simple dose of Penicillin antibiotic at Sh250 administered at the right time could prevent these deaths, she added.

“We will target 100,000 school aged children with the prevention message, conduct screening of 1,000 annually for cardiovascular disease and train 1,000 healthcare workers on the prevention of rheumatic heart disease over the next three years,” Ms Gatumia told the Nation in an interview.

Titled ‘Save one Child at a time,’ the campaign hopes to create awareness about the strep-sore-throat as a critical prevention factor to reduce the number of new cases and recurrence attacks as well as the morbidity, disability and mortality figures arising from the disease.

According to Ms Gatumia, research shows Rift Valley, Coast and low income areas in Nairobi are the most affected.

“A strep-sore-throat can be treated with as little as Sh250, ignoring treatment will cost not less than Sh500,000 to manage rheumatic heart disease,” warned Dr Beatrice Wanyara.

"This is why it is important to address the strep-sore-throat before it develops into rheumatic heart disease which leads to pre-mature death,” she added.

Rheumatic fever or rheumatic heart disease develops as a result of untreated bacterial (streptococcal) respiratory infection. It affects mostly the valves and muscle of the heart and can cause chronic illness among young people.

Environmental and social factors like overcrowding and damp conditions play a crucial role in the development of the disease especially during the rainy season in tropical and sub-tropical countries, coupled with poverty.