FIJIANS are dying young from rheumatic heart diseases (RHD).
This is the finding of Dr Charlie Corke of the Geelong Hospital in Australia.
Dr Corke was part of the Operation Open Heart team that was in the country a month ago conducting open heart surgeries for patients.
He said the team operated on patients between the ages of 15 and 50 years.
"The age group we operate on here is a lot younger than we operate on in Australia. The patients here who are sick are much younger, there is so much infection and there is no antibiotic, that's the problem," Dr Corke said.
In response, CWM Hospital head of paediatrics and consultant Dr Joseph Kado said it was a fact that RHD killed people in their youth, especially if they were undiagnosed or if diagnosed but chose not to comply with the treatment.
"RHD or acute rheumatic fever (ARF) is often diseases that are not common in developed countries, except among indigenous populations like the Aborigines in Australia and Maoris in New Zealand," Dr Kado said.
"They are diseases that are common in developing countries where poverty, poor sanitation, hygiene and overcrowding are the main risk factors. In Fiji, this is a big problem with majority of ARF cases being in the five to 55 years age group but the burden of the complication of RHD being in the 13-35 years age group."
However, Dr Kado refuted claims made by Dr Corke that there was not enough antibiotics in the country to treat infections.
"The antibiotics needed to treat Group A Streptococcus (GAS) is simply penicillin, the common presentation is with a sore throat and needs either a single injection of benzathine penicillin or 10 days of oral penicillin, which if untreated can cause acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart diseases."