Rheumatic Heart Disease

Rheumatic heart disease is the most commonly acquired heart disease in people under age 25, and mostly affects children and adolescents in low- and middle-income countries.

Rheumatic heart disease results from damage to heart valves caused by one or several episodes of rheumatic fever, an autoimmune inflammatory reaction to throat infection with group A streptococci (streptococcal pharyngitis or strep throat). It most commonly occurs in childhood, and can lead to death or life-long disability.  

Every year, the disease claims 288,348 lives worldwide. It also accounts for about 2% of deaths from cardiovascular diseases—the number one cause of death globally.

Despite it being eradicated in many parts of the world, the disease remains prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Central and South Asia, the South Pacific, and among immigrants and older adults in high-income countries, especially in indigenous peoples.

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