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Groups to collaborate on rheumatic fever research in SVG

Groups to collaborate on rheumatic fever research in SVG


Plans are afoot for a collaboratory research programme here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines aimed at addressing rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart diseases. According to International Hospital for Children’s President Susan Rickman, when all is put in place, the collaboration should include the Rockefeller University in New York, the local Ministry of Health and Rotary Club South as well as her organization.

A recent screening done on 800 children in St. Vincent and the Grenadines revealed that 23 of them had rheumatic heart disease, which indicates that there are cases of the disease in the country. The screening was conducted by Dr. William Moscowitz, director of pediatrics at the Medical College of Virginia, in the United States.{{more}}

Rheumatic fever is an inflammatory disease that may develop after an infection with the streptococcus bacteria and can involve the heart, joints, skin and brain. The disease primarily affects children between the ages of 6-15 and usually occurs about 20 days after strep throat or scarlet fever. The streptococcus bacterium is the most common bacterial infection of the throat and is spread through person to person contact from contact with nasal secretion or saliva.

Rickman told SEARCHLIGHT HEALTH that a public health program is needed because if not treated in someone by the age of 20, rheumatic fever can have a very bad outcome. “Persons need to be educated about strep throat and rheumatic fever and heart disease” stated Rickman.

The management of acute rheumatic fever is geared towards the reduction of inflammation with anti- inflammatory medications. Persons with positive cultures for strep throat need antibiotics. A continuous low dose of antibiotics like penicillin is recommended.

Rickman was leading a team of 12 medical personnel who visited St. Vincent for one week from Saturday, August 5, to conduct pediatric orthopedic surgeries. This is part of a medical aid program, initiated by the Rotary Club South which has seen 45 children being sent to the United States to be treated at the International Hospital for Children based in Richmond Virginia over the past four years. This team was the ninth team to visit this country to render a wide range of crucial medical services to children.

At a cocktail held in their honour by Governor-General Sir Frederick Ballantyne, at Government House on Thursday August 10, Rickman expressed great satisfaction with what was accomplished during her team’s one-week stay. She described St. Vincent and the Grenadines as a role model because “even though it is the smallest country we work in, it has the greatest advocacy for children. The International Hospital for Children also does work in Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, Guyana and the Dominican Republic.

Keeping the financial pipeline running to enable the continuation of the work and figuring out the best use of donors’ contributions were highlighted as the greatest challenges facing the organization which boasts of having over 200 medical personnel attached to it.

According to Rickman, over EC$4 million worth of surgical procedures have been done by teams from her organization on children from St. Vincent and the Grenadines over the last four years of the medical aid programme, not including the work done in their latest trip.