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The World in Medicine
November 18, 2009

Diarrhea Deaths in Children

JAMA. 2009;302(19):2083. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1680

Despite the existence of effective and inexpensive treatments, diarrhea annually claims the lives of about 1.5 million children younger than 5 years, according a report released by the United Nations Children's Fund and the World Health Organization (http://www.unicef.org/media/files/Final_Diarrhoea_Report_October_2009_final.pdf).

Only 39% of children with diarrhea in developing countries currently receive the recommended treatment of fluid replacement using low-osmolarity oral rehydration salts and zinc supplements. The report describes a 7-point plan that, in addition to these 2 treatment strategies, recommends 5 preventive strategies to reduce diarrhea-related deaths: immunization for rotavirus and measles, promotion of early and exclusive breastfeeding and vitamin A supplementation, promotion of hand washing with soap, improvement of water quantity and quality, and promotion of communitywide sanitation.