Public Health Says Incidence of Rheumatic Fever “Unknown”

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Guam – The Department of Public Health and Social Services (DPHSS) has seen an increase in reported cases of Streptococcal sore throat in the recent months.  However, Rheumatic fever has not been reported on a regular basis and, therefore, the true incidence of this condition is unknown . For week one of  2011, DPHSS received 4 reports of Streptococcal sore throat; for week 2, 8 cases; and for week 3, 19 case reports were received.

Most sore throats, such as those that accompany a cold or the flu, are caused by virus infections and usually go away on their own within a few days.  A portion of sore throats however, may be the result of infection with the Streptococcus bacteria, and it is important to identify and treat this type of infection in order to prevent complications such as Rheumatic fever.

Strep throat most commonly occurs in children between the ages of 3-15.  Unlike sore throat due to viruses, strep sore throat is treatable.  The bacteria that cause strep throat respond quickly to antibiotics, and treatment stops the infection from spreading to other people or causing serious complications.

Symptoms of Strep throat include the following:
•       Sore throat /pain when swallowing (without cold symptoms such as runny nose, stuffy nose, sneezing, etc.)
•       Fever
•       Swollen tonsils with white or yellowish spots in the back of the throat
•       Swollen lymph glands in the neck
•       Younger children may also complain of abdominal pain

** Symptoms may be absent or mild in some cases.

Untreated, strep throat infections can sometimes lead to the sequela of Rheumatic fever which occurs 2 – 4 weeks following the Strep throat; presents with fever, painful and swollen joints, and if unrecognized and untreated can result in damage to the heart valves.  Rheumatic fever occurs most commonly in children between the ages of 5 and 15, corresponding to the age group where Strep throat is most commonly seen.

If you or your child has signs or symptoms of strep throat, see your doctor.  A quick test can result in diagnosis of strep throat in most cases, so that treatment can be started promptly.