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Deaths Linked To Diarrheal Diseases Increasing, While Other Infectious Diseases Decline: Study

While the overall rates of infectious disease worldwide has been decreasing, new research indicates that deaths due to diarrheal disease have skyrocketed 500% since 1980. 

In a study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers indicate that infections diseases have decreased nearly 20% from 1980 to 2014. However, more people are dying from diseases related to diarrhea and its complications.

Researchers with the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation used data from the National Center for Health Statistics focusing on infectious disease trends, by county, from 1980 to 2014.

Overall, death from infectious diseases decreased from 43 deaths per 100,000 people to 34 deaths per 100,000 people, a 19% decrease. However, substantial variations were seen among different counties across the country.

Infectious diseases that decreased over the study period included lower respiratory infections, HIV/AIDS, meningitis, hepatitis, and tuberculosis. Death rates from meningitis and tuberculosis decreased over the study period in all U.S. counties.

The only type of infectious disease which did not decrease was diarrheal diseases. In fact, diarrheal disease incidence increased 484% during that time.

Diarrheal diseases include dehydration, infections, and malnutrition. Symptoms include frequent watery bowel movements, lethargy, sunken eyes, and other symptoms. Causes of diarrheal diseases stem from unclean water sources, poor hygiene, infrequent hand washing, and contaminated food.

Researchers speculate increases in diarrheal diseases in the U.S. were driven primarily by an aging population. They are more likely to get intestinal infections than younger people. Some infections, like C. difficile, can be deadly and lead to serious complications.

Most of the increases in diarrheal diseases occurred in the Northeastern region of the U.S. and Missouri. Some counties in New Mexico, California and Arizona also had sharp increases.

Between 1980 and 2014, 4.1 million deaths from infectious diseases occurred in the U.S. In 1980, about 72,000 were from infectious disease.

The study indicated lower respiratory infections were the leading cause of infectious disease death in 2014. Nearly 80% of all infectious disease deaths were a result of lower respiratory infections. Despite the high proportion, rates decreased from 1980 to 2014.

Diarrheal diseases and respiratory infections cost Americans more than $46 billion in 2013. Researchers said that a need for improved prevention measures and treatment are necessary to help reduce the increases.

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