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Rheumatic Heart Disease

About Acute Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease

The Northern Territory Rheumatic Heart Disease Progam staff assist in the prevention of acute rheumatic fever (ARF) and ongoing management of patients who have previously had ARF or currently have rheumatic heart disease (RHD).

ARF can occur after streptococcal (strep) infection, which may affect the throat or skin. The immune system is confused by the strep germ and produces antibodies which attack tissues in the heart, joints, brain and rarely the skin.

RHD is damage to the heart valves caused by ARF.

Recurrences of ARF may cause further valve damage, leading to worsening RHD. Prevention of recurrences of ARF is therefore of great importance.

Prevention of ARF by 4-weekly* benzathine penicillin G (BPG) injections** is the only effective means to control RHD.

RHD management includes regular clinical follow-up with specialist review and echocardiography.

* Patients on the 4 weekly medications should have 13 needles per year. Some patients may be on 3 weekly benzathine penicillin G (BPG)  injections, and require 17 injections per year.
** Oral penicillin may not prevent further episodes of ARF and is not recommended

About the Rheumatic Heart Disease Program

It is the aim of the RHD Program to reduce the recurrences of ARF and reduce the burden of RHD amongst the people of the Northern Territory. The RHD team meets this challenge by working closely with people touched by this disease, their families and people from their community, through education, training, support of community members and health staff.

For further information about the NT Rheumatic Heart Disease Program, please Contact Us or the Centre for Disease Control in your area.