In September of 2011 a team of 15 specialists from Team Heart in Boston, MA traveled to Kigali, Rwanda to screen school-age children for Rheumatic Heart disease. The team set out to screen 3,000 children from the ages of 6 to 16. The goal was to understand the true prevalence of the disease often in asymptomatic children, in order to provide funding for its treatment. This data is unknown in Rwanda and critical to create the basis for public health policy. In two weeks the team traveled to 10 schools in the surrounding area of Kigali performing echocardiograms, as this is the best tool to uncover early disease. Rheumatic heart disease develops from untreated strep throat and in its late stages can only be treated with open-heart surgery. The nation of Rwanda only has 5 cardiologists and no cardiac surgeons for 10 million people. If the disease is left untreated it is fatal. Children with detected disease can be referred for preventive treatment with monthly penicillin injections or for surgery from visiting teams from the United States and Australia.
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