Infectious Diseases Hospitalize More than a Quarter Million Infants

One of every 14 American infants is hospitalized for a respiratory illness, kidney infection, septicemia, or other infectious disease before age one, according to a new study by researchers with HHS' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Despite advances in public health, childhood infectious diseases continue to be a major health problem in the United States.

The researchers found that 4 of every 10 babies -- 287,000 that are hospitalized before reaching one year of age were treated for an infectious disease. In nearly 60 percent of the cases, infants had to be treated for lower respiratory tract infections, especially bronchiolitis and pneumonia. Kidney, urinary tract, and bladder infections (8 percent) were the second-leading cause at 8 percent, followed by septicemia, or blood poisoning, which accounted for 7 percent.

Hispanic infants accounted for a disproportionate share of admissions -- 23 percent -- about a third involved white infants, 12 percent African-American infants, and just 2 percent Asian or Pacific Islander infants.

Hispanic and African-American infants showed higher hospitalization rates compared to white infants for specific infectious diseases such skin infections, gastrointestinal tract infections, lower respiratory infections and septicemia. African-American infants had the highest hospitalization rate for meningitis.

Regardless of race or ethnicity, infants were most likely to be hospitalized in their second month of life (19 percent). After that age, the rate declined. About 15 percent of cases involved newborns.

A little more than one-third of the hospital admissions involved infants from poor families who earned less than $36,000 a year. In contrast, infants from families earning at least $60,000 a year made up just 15 percent of pediatric admissions for an infectious disease.

The researchers used data from AHRQs 2003 Kids Inpatient Database, part of the agencys Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project. For details, see "Infectious Disease Hospitalizations among Infants in the United States," in the February 2008 issue of Pediatrics.

Source: AHRQ