Washington: Raising community awareness by emphasising that untreated sore throat caused by group A streptococcal (GAS) infection can lead to acute rheumatic fever (ARF) or rheumatic heart disease RHD, is a huge part of the battle.
According to Dr Liesl Zuhlke, University of Cape Town and Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa, and Dr Mark E Engel, University of Cape Town, South Africa, the importance of creating awareness of the disease and its sequelae cannot be underestimated, especially in resource-limited conditions.
They said that the importance of these efforts needs to be recognised and barriers to awareness and education understood and overcome while health promotion research for acute rheumatic fever and RHD is prioritised. Maximised case detection within a community dictates that all members of that community are aware of the presentation and diagnosis of the disease, with the highest awareness needed amongst health care workers at primary health care level.
With increased awareness of the potential effects of sore throat, the authors believed that more families will be encouraged to seek medical help and prevent further cases of ARF or RHD.
"School and educational institutions should be targeted as the most vulnerable population for GAS infections are school-aged children. These have tremendous potential to improve the reach of primary and secondary prevention and case-detection," the authors said.
The authors also advocate for a change in attitudes from healthcare workers who see ARF or RHD as secondary to their plans to treat malaria, HIV, and TB, saying that ARF or RHD treatment can take place alongside treatment for these other life-threatening conditions.
Helping patients understand the treatment with information that is appropriate to their level of comprehension is also vital, using printed material, video, discussion and any other relevant techniques.
The study is published in Global Heart.