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July 22, 1988

Asthma Mortality Rate Raises Questions, Emphasizes Need to Determine Facts of Situation

JAMA. 1988;260(4):455-456. doi:10.1001/jama.1988.03410040021004

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IS IT NO longer true that "the asthmatic pants into old age," as Sir William Osler himself maintained? Some epidemiologists are worried that asthma mortality rates are increasing. The major concern is that the pollutants poured into the atmosphere every day may be aggravating the condition of asthmatics, leading to an increased number of deaths.

The rise has been reported consistently by countries with good epidemiologic surveillance, says Robert Goldstein, MD, PhD, chief of the Clinical Immunology and Immunopathology Branch of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Bethesda, Md. During the 1960s, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand reported increases in deaths attributed to asthma. For years previously, those countries had experienced relatively stable asthma mortality rates. So had Denmark and Sweden, which reported a steady, progressive rise later, starting around 1975.

Noted Four Years Ago  In the United States, the increase was first noted in 1984.