Infections are linked to 15% of child deaths, per recent report

Report on infection-related child and youth deaths in England.

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A new report from the University of Bristol‘s National Child Mortality Database reveals that 15% of child deaths in England over the past three years are linked to infections. The report uses unique data to examine 1,507 infection-related deaths between April 2019 and March 2022.

The report reveals that children under one face a higher risk of infection-related death, with varying risks based on ethnicity and socio-economic background. Those of Asian/Asian British or black/black British ethnic backgrounds, mainly Pakistani, face elevated risks. In the most deprived neighborhoods, the chance of infection-related death is twice that in the least disadvantaged areas. 

Children with underlying health conditions and learning disabilities are over-represented, with 90% of infection-related deaths having underlying health issues and 67% of deaths in the 5-17 age group having learning disabilities.

The report examines infection-related deaths last winter using rapid notification data from the National Child Mortality Database. It notes disruptions in seasonal patterns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with deaths rising in the winter of 2021/22 and not returning to typical levels in the summer of 2022/23. 

The latest data suggests a continued rise in infection-related deaths throughout the year. Professor Karen Luyt, the Program Director, highlights that one in six child deaths is linked to infection, and over a third of fatalities have contributory factors that could be modified by implementing the report’s recommendations universally.

Professor Karen Luyt, Programme Director for the National Child Mortality Database and Professor of Neonatal Medicine at the University of Bristol, said, “We urge all healthcare teams caring for infants, children, and young people to learn from and apply these findings to improve care. We call for research policy to prioritize research in child populations at highest risk of fatal infections.”

The report offers recommendations to enhance child survival, drawing insights from detailed child death reviews occurring nationwide. In 36% of cases, the review panel identified modifiable factors and circumstances that could be altered locally or nationally to decrease the risk of future child deaths.

In conclusion, the University of Bristol’s report offers crucial insights into the intersection of infections and child mortality, urging a comprehensive approach to address vulnerabilities, modifiable factors, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on pediatric health.

The new report, published on December 14, 2023, from the National Child Mortality Database (NCMD), explores “Infection-related deaths of children and young people in England.” Authors include Karen Luyt, Tom Williams, David Odd, Vicky Sleap, and Sylvia Stoianova.

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