International journal of epidemiology vol:22 issue:6 pages:1104-1110
Cross-sectional morbidity recorded during two successive quarterly survey rounds and subsequent 27-months mortality were studied in a random sample of 4238 preschool children in a rural Zairian area. Analysis focuses on morbid patterns, i.e. any combination of the principal signs and symptoms encountered in tropical areas (oedema, marasmus, cough, fever, diarrhoea and tachypnoea). Almost half the children (45-48%) had signs of morbidity, a very high rate. The 3-6 month age group emerged as particularly vulnerable with the highest prevalences of all morbid patterns except for isolated fever. Isolated cough was more prevalent in the dry season probably as an effect of nightly indoor woodburning. All other morbid patterns were significantly more prevalent in the rainy season. Diarrhoea with cough was found to constitute half of all cases of diarrhoea. The results show that with a few simple questions on major symptoms and a brief examination by paramedical health workers, children with an increased risk of death can be identified. The method can be applied at under-5 clinics. Prognosis is particularly bad in severe malnutrition, especially when associated with diarrhoea, in diarrhoea with cough, cough with fever/tachypnoea and for children who are found sick both in the rainy and the subsequent dry season.