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Generalized disease caused by certain types of streptococcus bacteria. It occurs mostly in children and young adults. Symptoms may be mild or severe. Sudden fever, joint pain, and inflammation may begin days to weeks after a streptococcal infection, usually of the throat (seepharyngitis). Other symptoms may include skin nodules and rashes, chorea, abdominal pain, nosebleeds, and weight loss. Heart inflammation, with accompanying rapid heartbeat, murmurs, and enlargement, can lead to valve scarring, markedly shortening life. After recovery, survivors are prone to future attacks. Penicillin given when the initial infection is diagnosed can prevent it. Otherwise, salicylic acid derivatives or corticosteroids help the symptoms.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on rheumatic fever, visit Britannica.com.