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As a young girl, Kenya McAdams experienced a lot of sore throats.

Despite visits to the local health clinic, Kenya’s bouts of acute rheumatic fever went undiagnosed and she did not receive the antibiotics required to prevent further illness. By age 14, Kenya was in a lot of pain; her joints were aching, her heart was beating fast and she started to cough up blood. Kenya ended up in the emergency department, where she was finally diagnosed with RHD and flown to Adelaide for life-saving open-heart surgery to repair her damaged heart valves.

Kenya now receives a penicillin injection every 28 days to prevent further infections, and she will need this treatment for the foreseeable future. While the injections can be painful, Kenya knows how important they are in ensuring she is not at risk of complications such as heart failure and stroke, and her condition will be carefully monitored during any pregnancies in the future.

 

There are 33 million people living RHD around the world and more than 300,000 people die of RHD each year. (New England Journal of Medicine)


More than 6,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are identified as living with RHD. (RHD Australia)


Young Aboriginal Australians in the Northern Territory are up to 122 times more likely to have RHD than their non-Aboriginal counterparts. (AIHW Report 2012)


In Western Australia’s Kimberley region, the average age of death from RHD is 41 years. (Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 2013)


To prevent further infections, people being treated for RHD must endure a penicillin injection every 28 days, usually for a minimum of ten years. This is referred to as secondary prophylaxis. (RHD Australia Guidelines)


Having monthly antibiotic injections can be difficult and painful. On average, less than half of people prescribed secondary prophylaxis in the Northern Territory have more than 80% of their scheduled injections. (De Dassel paper)