The federal government has been urged to pay serious attention to a silent killer disease known as “Rheumatic heart disease” which is said to be a developing stage of other cardiovascular diseases.
Executive Director of Heart Aid Trust, a non-governmental organisation based in Jos, Professor Fidelia Bode-Thomas, made the appeal in Jos when she led other members of the organisation on an advocacy visit to media establishments in Jos, the Plateau State capital.
She said one of the ways to give special attention to Rheumatoid Heart Disease is for government to include it into existing National Health Policies for adequate and appropriate attention.
According to Bode-Thomas, “Cardiovascular disease has been identified worldwide as the leading cause of sudden death and it all begins with rheumatic heart disease.
“Rheumatic heart disease is a silent killer disease which is hardly noticed at its early state and it has proven difficult to treat in its advanced stage. But the irony is that the disease is 100 per cent preventable.
“It begins with a common health problem like sore throat which everyone takes for granted and treats casually without knowing it could result to a more deadly disease called rheumatic heart disease.
“By the time you realise that it is something serious, you have developed a major cardiovascular case, which leads to sudden death.
“Due to serious health challenges posed by this silent killer disease, Heart Aid Trust has taken it upon itself to raise awareness and educate the general public on the danger posed by this rheumatic heart disease and how to prevent it and even detect it at early stage.
“Over the years we have tried our best to save lives of patients affected by this disease but in most cases before we know of the cases, it has resulted in serious complications that made the disease difficult to treat and has resulted in so many deaths.
“But while we are doing our best as an NGO, government needs to come in because treatment for this disease is capital intensive, but government cannot intervene now because rheumatic heart disease is not among the diseases listed in the national public health policies.
“So far, we have established a center at the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), where we now carry out open heart surgery on patients with heart diseases so as to cut cost of taking such patience outside the country for the surgery.
“This has reduced the cost considerably, but the cost is still high beyond the level of an average Nigerian, and this is where governments needs to come in to help save more lives of citizens.
“If only this heart problem can be given serious attention by governments similar to what is done to HIV/IDS, Malaria, etc through policy formulation, a lot of lives would be saved.”
The expert however said the NGO would continue to raise awareness especially at the rural areas for people to know of the disease and prevent it.
She added that, “we have concluded plans to launch a campaign project known as “Kick Rheumatic Heart Disease Out of Plateau State”.
“We will use the project to reach out to residents on this silent killer disease. Nigerians should stop treating sore throat as a common health challenge because that sore throat can lead you to major heart problems, rheumatic heart disease sometimes starts from childhood and carried to adulthood if not diagnosed, but the good news is that rheumatic heart disease is 100 per cent preventable.”
Earlier, in a welcome remark, Chairman of the Correspondents Chapel in the state, Mr. Yusufu Idegu said the media sector was prepared to partner individuals, government and non-governmental organisations in their efforts to save life.