Skip to content
Main menu hidden.
Published: 2024-04-23

Sore throat break hearts: how can it be prevented?

NEWS Early treatment of a sore throat with antibiotics can prevent rheumatic heart disease (RHD). The disease causes about 390,000 deaths worldwide each year and negatively affects quality of life, but action to stop the disease has so far been limited, according to a dissertation at Umeå University.

A simple sore throat from a bacterial streptococcal infection can lead to serious damage to the heart valves, a condition known as RHD. It mainly affects children and young adults with poor living conditions and limited access to health care. In Namibia, which was studied for the thesis, it is estimated that about 1% of the population lives with RHD.

"In our research, we have reviewed health records from the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs and the Department of Cardiology for the years 2010 to 2020. We also interviewed patients with RHD at the cardiology clinic between 2019 and 2020 to understand how RHD affects them. Furthermore, we have reviewed international studies to assess the effectiveness of different prevention strategies that have been evaluated," says dissertation author Panduleni Penipawa Shimanda, Department of Epidemiology and Global Health.

Main findings of the study suggest that there is poor documentation and detection of people with RHD in Namibia.

"From a survey of patients, we could see that treatment of RHD means that people can live a good life. Another observation is that there are few preventive interventions that have been evaluated worldwide. Our findings also suggest that school-based screening to detect early symptoms such as sore throat and RHD at an early stage is likely to be cost-effective”.

Overall, RHD was observed in children and young adults in Namibia's northern regions, possibly due to living conditions and access to medical care.

To improve the situation in Namibia and other countries, ministries of health and health organizations need to work together for better data collection practices, raise awareness of RHD among families and health professionals, and ensure early detection and treatment. Incorporating RHD services into existing health care programs, such as for maternal and child health care, can save resources.

"This is important in countries like Namibia, where RHD prevention is limited. Prevention of RHD can save young lives, and for this we need to find efficient and effective strategies," says Panduleni Penipawa Shimanda.

The dissertation will take place on 26 April 2024, 09.00, in Triple Helix. Thesis title: Rheumatic heart disease in Namibia: Evaluation of the burden and cost-effectiveness of a prevention strategy. Opponent Phillip Moons, KU Leuven, Belgium.

DiVA link

Contact information
Email: Penipawa@hotmail.com
UmU email: panduleni.penipawa.shimanda@umu.se
Cell phone number: +264 (0) 81 329 6489
Language: English only