Background: A pilot rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease control porject was started in 1988 in blocks of district Ambala (Haryana) to test the feasibility of early detection, treatment and secondary prophylaxis for rheumatic fever/rheumatic heart disease cases. School teachers, students and health workers were trained to identify and refer suspected cases of rheumatic fever/rheumatic heart disease to the community health center where physicians examined the suspected cases and monthly secondary prophylaxis was provided to the confirmed cases.
Methods and results: A survey of registered cases was done in 1999 to determine the compliance rate of secondary prophylaxis and to describe clinical and epidemiologic features of the registered cohort of rheumatic fever/rheumatic heart disease patients. A total of 257 patients had been registered till the end of 1999 with 1263 person-years of follow-up. Out of these registered patients, 132 were receiving secondary prophylaxis, 52 had died, 17 had migrated, 8 were lost to follow-up, 18 had stopped prophylaxis and 30 completed the prophylaxis course. The mean age at registration was 18 years. Half of the cases were in the 6-15 years age group at registration. Over half of the patients were registered with a history of rheumatic fever. Fever was the most common symptom (75.9%). Carditis was more common among cases with recurrent attacks of rheumatic fever than after a first attack. The mortality in rheumatic fever/rheumatic heart cases was 32.5/1000 person-years. The mean age at death was 24.4 years. Compliance with secondary prophylaxis was 92% during the past 12 years.
Conclusions: A rheumatic fever/rheumatic heart disease control program can be sustained within the primary health care system and the case registry can be utilized not only for monitoring the program but also to gain insight into the epidemiology of the disease.