Acute Respiratory Infections Are the Leading Cause of Death in Children in Developing Countries

Floyd W. DennyUniversity of North Carolina, Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, Box 3, Wing D 208H, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514

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Frank A. LodaUniversity of North Carolina, Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, Box 3, Wing D 208H, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514

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A paper by Hazlett et al. to be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal is of particular importance because it addresses the question of the role of acute respiratory infections (ARI) as a cause of morbidity and especially mortality in third world children. Diarrheal disease and malnutrition are generally considered to be the major killers of these children and until recently little attention was paid to ARI. Recent data suggest that ARI are more important than realized previously; indeed, they almost certainly are the leading cause of death in children in developing countries.

Accurate data on morbidity and mortality due to medical causes are not readily available from most developing nations. Information is accumulating which suggests that the actual incidence of respiratory and gastrointestinal infections is not greatly different from that in industrialized countries. The big difference in these societies is in mortality rates, especially in children.

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