In 2014, Kamva Nosifundo’s parents started noticing that she was often tired and complained of pain in her joints. Her parents, Litha and Mgweba, from Mdantsane, brought her to Frere Hospital where Dr Maurice Levy confirmed that rheumatic fever had damaged a heart valve, hampering the flow of blood to her body.
Kamva, nine-years-old and a pupil at King’s College Mtsotso campus, is on medication for her condition.
Rheumatic fever is one of the most common causes of cardiac disease in children. Historically, the incidence of rheumatic heart disease has decreased in developed countries, with improved living conditions and the availability of penicillin. In developing countries including South Africa, however, rheumatic heart disease remains a major cause of deaths in children, with over 233 000 children dying from this disease every year.
How the heart can be damaged by rheumatic fever:
Strep throat is caused by the streptococcus bacteria (Group A) and usually exhibits in fever, sore throat, trouble swallowing and white dots or redness on the throat. ⇒ It is most often evident in children but adults can also come down with strep. Poor living and conditions and personal hygiene have been seen to promote the distribution of the disease. ⇒ It is treated with antibiotics – penicillin or amoxicillin. ⇒ If untreated, strep throat can lead to rheumatic fever, which has more serious health implications, including causing damage to the joints, heart and kidneys. ⇒ If left untreated, rheumatic fever can affect connective tissue in the body, usually causing inflammation including in the heart, joints, skin or brain. In the heart, someone infected with rheumatic fever, will exhibit inflammation and scarring of the heart valves. ⇒ This can lead to permanent damage including narrowing of the valve channel, affecting the performance of the heart values and the pumping work which the heart does. ⇒ Treatment of rheumatic heart disease may include antiobiotics, medication to reduce inflammation in the heart or to treat congestive heart failure, or repair or replacement of a heart valve.