Fetal alcohol syndrome--South Africa, 2001

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2003 Jul 18;52(28):660-2.


Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is caused by maternal alcohol use during pregnancy and is one of the leading causes of preventable birth defects and developmental disabilities. The FAS phenotype is characterized by a combination of facial dysmorphic features, growth retardation, and central nervous system (CNS) abnormalities. State-based estimates of the prevalence of FAS in the United States vary from 0.3 to 1.5 per 1,000 live-born infants. Recently, the highest prevalence of FAS worldwide was reported among first-grade children in a wine-growing region in the Western Cape province of South Africa. Investigators for the National Institutes of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA) reported a FAS prevalence of 40.5 to 46.4 per 1,000 children aged 5-9 years in one community in Western Cape. To determine whether FAS was associated exclusively with the wine-growing region in Western Cape or was more endemic in other areas of the country, CDC, in collaboration with the University of Witwatersrand and the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research in Johannesburg, South Africa, conducted a prevalence study in Gauteng province and is developing ongoing surveillance and prevention activities. This report summarizes the findings of the study, which indicate a high prevalence of FAS among first-grade children in four nonwine-growing communities around Johannesburg. Because South Africa has limited resources and many competing health problems (e.g., human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, tuberculosis, and sexually transmitted diseases), integrating prenatal alcohol-exposure prevention activities with existing prevention programs should be explored.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / diagnosis
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • South Africa / epidemiology