1 in 50 Fijian children may have rheumatic heart disease, says health chief

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Fiji's Health Secretary Dr James Fong
Fiji's Health Secretary Dr James Fong . . . the ministry is focused on dedicating the best care to those diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease. Image: Eliki Nukutabu/The Fiji Times

By Pauliasi Mateboto in Suva

One in 50 Fijian children could have rheumatic heart disease and children between the ages of five to 15 years are the most at risk of rheumatic fever.

While revealing these alarming statistics, Health Secretary Dr James Fong revealed the high figures indicated the high screening conducted by the ministry, which was a positive sign in terms of early detection and early mitigation.

Speaking at the World Heart Day celebration in Suva yesterday, he said the ministry was focused on dedicating the best care to those diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease (RHD).

It had been proven that with the best medical care, patients of the disease lived a long life.

Dr Fong highlighted the ministry’s advocacy and early detection awareness in the community remained the focus of the ministry, as it saw an opportunity to reach many Fijians as possible.

Meanwhile, Maca Tikoicina, the grandmother of young Jaydee Tikocina who was diagnosed with RHD last year, shared the painful experience their family had endured in the past 12 months.

She stated Jaydee was diagnosed in September 2022 and had to drop out of school as he became too weak and unable to carry out normal duties.

She highlighted that following through with doctors’ consultations, taking the prescribed medicines on time and following the strict injection schedule of one injection after every 21 days resulted in significant improvement in her grandchild’s life.

“When the doctors screened him in March, they noted some improvements in his heart at the recent check earlier this month, we were told Jaydee can play sports again,” she said.

According to Tikocina, sports and other physical activities were some of the many activities and joys that Jaydee was barred from when he was initially diagnosed.

Tikocina urged parents and guidance to get their children checked early and if they are diagnosed, the key was following medical advice.

She also encouraged Fijians to take advantage of the free screening programmes and outreaches organised by the Ministry of Health.

Pauliasi Mateboto is a Fiji Times reporter. Republished with permission.

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