STUDY OBJECTIVE: To determine the prevalence of rheumatic heart disease (RHD) and study the relationship of this disease to factors such as age, sex, housing, and socioeconomic status in Shimla town and the adjoining rural area. DESIGN: A cross sectional survey, carried out by a specially trained examiner in cardiology. SETTING: The study involved high risk school children (5-16 years of age) from Shimla town and the adjoining rural area of Kasumpti-Suni Block in the period 1992-93. SUBJECTS: A total of 15,080 children on the school register (8120 boys and 6960 girls) were examined generally and specifically for evidence of RHD. MAIN RESULTS: Of the 15,080 children screened, the prevalence of rheumatic fever (RF)/RHD was 2.98 per thousand with no significant difference between the age groups of 5-10 and 11-16 years or in either sex (p > 0.05). The prevalence was significantly greater in rural schools (4.8/1000) than in urban schools (1.98/1000) (p < 0.05). There was overcrowding and poor housing in most cases. There were fewer cases of RHD with severe valvular lesions in the younger age group than in the older children. The mitral valve was the valve most commonly affected by RF/RHD. CONCLUSIONS: RHD continues to be a serious health problem. Regular surveys are needed to identify cases early and to ensure secondary prophylaxis with penicillin is given thereby preventing recurrence of RF and progression of the severity of the valvular lesion. Echocardiography is necessary to identify cases of RF/RHD. Strategies for preventing RHD should involve primary prevention to avert the first attack of carditis and strengthening of secondary prophylaxis through improved education and motivation of patients, parents, and physicians.
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