Acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease are diseases of socioeconomic disadvantage. These diseases are common in developing countries and in Indigenous populations in industrialized countries. Clinicians who work with Indigenous populations need to maintain a high index of suspicion for the potential diagnosis of acute rheumatic fever, particularly in patients presenting with joint pain. Inexpensive medicines, such as aspirin, are the mainstay of symptomatic treatment of rheumatic fever; however, antiinflammatory treatment has no effect on the long-term rate of progression or severity of chronic valvular disease. The current focus of global efforts at prevention of rheumatic heart disease is on secondary prevention (regular administration of penicillin to prevent recurrent rheumatic fever), although primary prevention (timely treatment of streptococcal pharyngitis to prevent rheumatic fever) is also important in populations in which it is feasible.
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