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Morbidity and mortality from infection 

Morbidity and mortality from infection
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date: 18 November 2019

Infection remains a major cause of childhood morbidity and mortality worldwide. In industrialized countries, infectious diseases are estimated to contribute to around 20% of childhood deaths and 10% of neonatal deaths, and remain one of the most important preventable causes of death. Half the children who died of an infection had an underlying medical condition recorded on their death certificate. Among previously healthy children, respiratory tract infections were most prevalent in infant deaths, septicaemia in 1–4 year olds, and meningo-encephalitis in 5–14 year-olds. Where a pathogen was specified on the death certificate, 60% were bacterial, 30% viral, 8% fungal, and 2% other infections. In previously healthy children, meningococci (28%), pneumococci (18%), and other streptococci (13%) were commonly reported. In children with underlying medical conditions, Gram-negative enteric bacilli accounted for over half of all bacterial infections. Viral infections contributed equally to deaths among previously healthy children and those with underlying medical conditions (20%). Among neonatal infection-related deaths, 36% occurred in term infants, 17% in preterms (28–36 weeks), and 47% in extremely preterms (less than 28 weeks’ gestation). Septicaemia was the commonest clinical presentation (50%), followed by pneumonia (15%) and meningitis (5%). Overall, 80% were bacterial, 10% fungal, and 9% viral. Group B streptococci were recorded in a third of neonatal deaths where a bacterial infection was specified and in 11% of all infection-related neonatal deaths.

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