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Acute rheumatic fever (ARF), a major cause of acquired heart disease worldwide, remains a significant public health problem. However, the precise incidence of ARF in Africa, where a large number of cases occur, remains unknown. We hypothesize that focused attention on non-cardiac features of ARF, namely joint manifestations and chorea, might enhance its detection in settings with limited resources.This hypothesis was tested by reviewing the medical records at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital from 1998 to 2008. In addition, an extensive literature review of published studies was performed to assess rates of joint findings or chorea in confirmed cases of ARF.Fifty-nine new cases of ARF were diagnosed in children at Vanderbilt from 1998 to 2008. Of these cases, 91% presented with joint manifestations or chorea, and 80% satisfied major Jones criteria findings of polyarthritis or chorea. These findings are consistent with literature published from our region and internationally.Most patients presenting with ARF have either joint symptoms or chorea, features that could be recognized by community health workers and individuals with limited medical training. The referral of patients presenting with these manifestations for further evaluation might improve detection rates of ARF in resource-limited countries and lead to improved estimates of disease burden.