WiRED International Warns: Strep Throat Can Lead to
Rheumatic Heart Disease




inter brings seasonal increases in strep throat, a bacterial infection which can lead to rheumatic fever, rheumatic heart disease (RHD) and even death. Although RHD is completely preventable, it affects 15.6 million people worldwide, two-thirds of them children in low-resource countries.


Since 2012 WiRED International has targeted RHD, because we believe that education can curb the spread of this disease, which is a major killer of children. With support from Medtronic Philanthropy, WiRED developed a series of modules targeting a range of audiences, starting with modules for teachers and students and going on to include modules for parents and community health workers.


In 2013 WiRED tested its RHD project in Kenya, where research was carried out at the University of Nairobi, by medical students who measured the effectiveness of WiRED modules in teaching children about RHD. With research assistance from Claremont Graduate University in Pomona, California, WiRED got strong evidence that students who used WiRED’s interactive modules not only learned about central concepts regarding RHD, but retained that information.


In 2014 WiRED rolled out its echocardiogram training series. This series was written by a three-member team of medical specialists to provide a program that would help nurses and professional health workers identify patients with possible RHD in underserved communities — where a visit from a cardiologist is unheard of.


In 2015 WiRED created an RHD animation, which to date has received 21,000 hits on YouTube. In the space of a few minutes, the video describes RHD and explains why it is so serious, why it prevails in underserved communities, and why it needs to be addressed. The animation is available in English, Spanish and Portuguese.


Currently WiRED’s RHD training is in high demand and is being used extensively with school children in Africa and in Latin America. It is taught by community health workers in Fiji and will soon appear in schools in New Zealand.


Prevention of RHD remains key. WiRED believes that the ability to recognize the signs and symptoms of strep throat and treat it before it progresses to rheumatic fever, then to RHD, will dramatically reduce the occurrence of this illness.



What is RHD?


RHD is a chronic heart condition caused by rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever is caused by a streptococcal (strep) infection. Treating strep throat with antibiotics can prevent rheumatic fever. Moreover, regular antibiotics (usually monthly injections) can prevent patients with rheumatic fever from contracting further strep infections and causing progression to valve damage. Acute rheumatic fever can affect the heart, joints and central nervous system, and can lead to heart failure and death.







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