NOT enough people understand that the seriousness of RHD starts from a simple throat infection.
And too often, throat infections are not treated immediately, particularly when they appear in children.
This can be dangerous given that such an infection could lead to RHD.
Health Ministry head pediatrician Dr Joseph Kado explained that it's crucial for throat infections in children to be treated as soon as possible.
"The prevalence of RHD in Fiji in children between five and 14 years is 35.4 per 1000 people. That means that 3.5 per cent of children have definite or probable RHD," Dr Kado said.
"RHD is the most common cause of heart disease in children and young adults. It often starts mild, but can develop into a life-threatening illness."
He said when children got throat infections and the body produces an immune response to the infection, it could in fact lead to acute rheumatic fever and if not treated could lead to RHD.
"It's when the body produces a strong immune response to a throat infection caused by a particular type of bacteria —Group A streptococcus, or strep throat.
"Most strep throat infections get better without developing further, but in some cases where it is left untreated the throat infection can cause the heart, joints, brain and skin to become inflamed and swollen.
"And if this inflammation causes scarring to the heart valves, the affected person can develop RHD."
This points to the importance of treating and preventing such illnesses before they have the chance to develop further.
And Dr Kado highlighted the need to complete all antibiotic medication provided by doctors, otherwise the infection is not completely removed from the body.
"The antibiotic needed to treat strep throat is simply penicillin and the common presentation of this is with a sore throat, so get a single injection of benzathine penicillin or 10 days of oral penicillin.
"If you notice your child getting any symptoms of a sore throat or a throat infection, bring them to your nearest doctor and get them treated."