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Original Investigation
March 27, 2018

Trends and Patterns of Differences in Infectious Disease Mortality Among US Counties, 1980-2014

Author Affiliations
  • 1Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington, Seattle
JAMA. 2018;319(12):1248-1260. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.2089
Key Points

Question  What are the spatial and temporal trends in mortality due to lower respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases, HIV/AIDS, meningitis, hepatitis, and tuberculosis among US counties from 1980 to 2014?

Findings  In this study that applied small-area estimation models to deidentified death records from the National Center for Health Statistics, overall mortality due to infectious diseases decreased from 42.95 to 34.10 deaths per 100 000 persons, but with substantial variation among counties. The only category of infectious diseases to increase over this time was diarrheal diseases (from 0.41 to 2.41 deaths per 100 000 persons).

Meaning  Between 1980 and 2014, there were declines in mortality from most categories of infectious disease, but an increase in mortality for diarrheal diseases; however, there were large differences among US counties.

Abstract

Importance  Infectious diseases are mostly preventable but still pose a public health threat in the United States, where estimates of infectious diseases mortality are not available at the county level.

Objective  To estimate age-standardized mortality rates and trends by county from 1980 to 2014 from lower respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases, HIV/AIDS, meningitis, hepatitis, and tuberculosis.

Design and Setting  This study used deidentified death records from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and population counts from the US Census Bureau, NCHS, and the Human Mortality Database. Validated small-area estimation models were applied to these data to estimate county-level infectious disease mortality rates.

Exposures  County of residence.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Age-standardized mortality rates of lower respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases, HIV/AIDS, meningitis, hepatitis, and tuberculosis by county, year, and sex.

Results  Between 1980 and 2014, there were 4 081 546 deaths due to infectious diseases recorded in the United States. In 2014, a total of 113 650 (95% uncertainty interval [UI], 108 764-117 942) deaths or a rate of 34.10 (95% UI, 32.63-35.38) deaths per 100 000 persons were due to infectious diseases in the United States compared to a total of 72 220 (95% UI, 69 887-74 712) deaths or a rate of 41.95 (95% UI, 40.52-43.42) deaths per 100 000 persons in 1980, an overall decrease of 18.73% (95% UI, 14.95%-23.33%). Lower respiratory infections were the leading cause of infectious diseases mortality in 2014 accounting for 26.87 (95% UI, 25.79-28.05) deaths per 100 000 persons (78.80% of total infectious diseases deaths). There were substantial differences among counties in death rates from all infectious diseases. Lower respiratory infection had the largest absolute mortality inequality among counties (difference between the 10th and 90th percentile of the distribution, 24.5 deaths per 100 000 persons). However, HIV/AIDS had the highest relative mortality inequality between counties (10.0 as the ratio of mortality rate in the 90th and 10th percentile of the distribution). Mortality from meningitis and tuberculosis decreased over the study period in all US counties. However, diarrheal diseases were the only cause of infectious diseases mortality to increase from 2000 to 2014, reaching a rate of 2.41 (95% UI, 0.86-2.67) deaths per 100 000 persons, with many counties of high mortality extending from Missouri to the northeastern region of the United States.

Conclusions and Relevance  Between 1980 and 2014, there were declines in mortality from most categories of infectious diseases, with large differences among US counties. However, over this time there was an increase in mortality for diarrheal diseases.

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