Dr Annette Erhart, of the Medical Research Council The Gambia (MRCG), has revealed that 41 school children in the country have been infected with Rheumatic Heart Disease. She made these remarks on Tuesday while giving an overview of a project dubbed 'Latte'.
The MRCG Medical Team on Tuesday presented a research study of the disease at a ceremony held at Nusrat Senior Secondary School in Bundung. The Latte project, officials said, intends to measure the burden of the disease especially among school going children and also young people.
The Latte Project was initiated five years ago at the Out Patients Department (OPD) of the MRCG. The project was also initiated at the Edwards Francis Small Teaching Hospital (EFSTH) in Banjul.
The MRCG Dr. further added: "We are seeing a lot of young children with rheumatic heart disease. The study that we conducted which focused on school children revealed that 41 children in total are infected with rheumatic disease. Surprisingly, all of them were not aware about their conditions," she posited.
The project, she went on, will phase out by the end of September. However, she was quick to add that the project might be extended, taking into account that they intend to conduct screening at Charles Jaw School.
Three thousand school children, she said, were screened by the project, claiming that out of the three thousand students, 41 of them were found to have gotten the disease.
"All the 41 children who were infected with the disease were reviewed by a cardiologist's experts. The experts have been giving advice for treatment and also monitoring the patients."
In his welcoming remarks, Ebrima Jaiteh, who spoke on behalf of the school principal said: "The disease is really affecting school children in the country. MRCG conducted the research study with a view to completely eradicate the disease in the country," he said, while commending the MRCG for selecting his school to be part of the participating school.
Babucarr Jarju, from the regional education directorate Region 1, hailed MRCG for conducting the study. "Rheumatic Heart Disease is a deadly disease which has taken away our productive citizens. Therefore, it's important that each child is screened before the end of September."
"We have to ensure that we have a good foundation for our children. From what I have already read from the research, it seems the younger you are the danger you face. Again, the prevalence of this disease is more in the Lower Basic Schools than the Upper and Senior Secondary School respectively."
Dr. Lamin E.S. Jaiteh, from MRCG added: "Rheumatic Heart Disease is a disease which people don't give much attention to in the country. However, the negative consequence of the disease is very serious," he stated, adding that the disease was eradicated in Europe through good policies.