Doctors warn about increasing heart disease
February 20, 2024
Doctors warn about increasing heart disease

Cases of rheumatic fever among children in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), have been highlighted as an area of concern by a local paediatrician due to its link with Rheumatic Heart Disease and the number of cases being recorded in the country.

This is the information coming from Dr. Shari-Ann Davis-Andrews, Consultant Paediatrician and Paediatric Cardiology Specialist during a recent episode of VC3’s RoundTable Talk on Heart Health.

Dr Davis- Andrews explained that the most common cases of heart disease diagnosed in Vincentian children is congenital heart disease which comes as a result of a birth defect. This is followed by acquired heart disease.

“… very close second, but it is very difficult because we don’t have numbers to compare, would be acquired heart disease like Kawasaki disease because we do get a lot of cases and rheumatic heart disease, we do see quite a bit of that.”

The doctor explained that rheumatic fever, an inflammatory condition which develops if an infection caused by the streptococcus bacteria is not properly treated, can affect the heart. However many cases locally have gone undiagnosed.

“Usually you would have a sore throat and this bacteria streptococcus and then because of that your body creates these antibodies that would attack different areas and the major concern that we have is that it can attack the heart,” she explained.

“We do see some of these cases and the reason why it is hard to say exactly how many cases we see is because there are cases that are undiagnosed.”
A recent visit by the World Paediatric Project to SVG found that a number of children had experienced changes in the heart which were most likely related to rheumatic fever.

“In May 2023, the WPP went through 13 primary schools looking at students between 9 and 11 years, they screened 687 children and of that they found eight cases of changes in the heart related to rheumatic fever. It means that these children would have been exposed to rheumatic fever and probably were unaware and started to show changes such as damage to the valves of the heart. These cases exist and, unfortunately, we may not recognize them until they present with heart failure or are very sick.”

She stressed the importance of children being treated with antibiotics for strep throat infections in order to prevent cases of rheumatic heart disease.
As it relates to cardiovascular health in adults, Cardiologist, Dr. Adys Fuentes revealed that in 2002, heart disease was the second leading cause of death for Vincentians and it is currently the leading cause of death globally.

Dr Fuentes said other lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, coupled with high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels are preventable and need not progress to heart disease.