Development of rapid assessment procedures for the delimitation of lymphatic filariasis-endemic areas
Lymphatic filariasis caused by Wuchereria bancrofti is a major public health problem in 73 tropical and subtropical countries including India. Delimitation of endemic areas is essential to plan control operations. The current method of night blood survey (NBS) for delimitation is cumbersome, time-consuming and expensive. Therefore, there is a need to develop assessment procedures which can rapidly delimit endemic areas. For this purpose we evaluated three procedures: direct interviewing of key informants using structured questionnaires, an indirect method of a self-administered questionnaires to key informants and physical examination by health workers for the presence of chronic filarial disease. Thirty rural communities in a filariasis-endemic region in Cuddalore district in Tamil Nadu State in southern India constituted the study population. The determination of filariasis endemicity in the village communities assessed by the above procedures was compared in terms of rapidity, specificity, sensitivity and cost with the microfilaria rate and disease rate obtained by night blood sample survey and clinical examination by physicians. Prevalence score, control preference score and weighted mean number of cases with filarial disease per village were calculated using the key informant questionnaire techniques. While the prevalence and control preference score showed low sensitivity and moderate specificity, weighted mean number of cases showed high sensitivity and moderate specificity in identifying endemic villages. The prevalence of disease as determined by the physical examination of a sample population by health workers was highly sensitive in identifying communities endemic for filariasis. The degree of association between the disease rates estimated by physician and trained health workers was significant (r = 0.56; P < 0.05). These observations suggest that the weighted mean number of cases per village obtained through key informant techniques may be considered at a primary level to crudely identify endemic areas, followed by physical examination by health workers for filariasis, since it is relatively cheap and rapid.