Towards a uniform plan for the control of rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease in Africa - the Awareness Surveillance Advocacy Prevention (ASAP) Programme

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South African Medical Journal

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University of Cape Town

Over the last 150 years the developed world has experienced a dramatic decline in the incidence and prevalence of rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease (RF/RHD) through improved living conditions and the widespread use of penicillin for the treatment of streptococcal pharyngitis. Despite the proven effectiveness and availability of penicillin for both primary and secondary prevention of RF, developing countries continue to face unacceptably high rates of the disease.1 RF/RHD is the most common cardiovascular disease in children and young adults in the world, because 80% of the world’s population live in developing countries where the disease is still rampant. Recent research estimates that RF/RHD affects about 15.6 million people worldwide, with 282 000 new cases and 233 000 deaths each year. There are 2.4 million affected children between 5 and 14 years of age in developing countries, 1 million of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa, making the continent the major RF/RHD hotspot.2