HealthDay News — According to a research letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the US mortality rate from infectious diseases is about the same now as it was in 1980, but some of the specific disease threats have changed over the years.

Heidi Brown, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor in epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Arizona in Tucson, and colleagues found that the national mortality rate from infections stood at 45.6 deaths per 100,000 people in 2014. 

That compared with 42.0 per 100,000 in 1980. The overall mortality rate rose as high as 63.5 per 100,000 in 1995, owing to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. AIDS deaths declined from then on, with the introduction of medication regimens that have turned HIV into a manageable chronic disease.

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Overall, deaths from any infectious cause fell substantially between 1900 and 1950, with the exception of a spike during the 1918 flu pandemic. Focusing on more recent years, the investigators found that mortality was somewhat higher in 2014, versus 1980. 

Pneumonia and influenza were the most common causes, accounting for 38.3% of infectious disease deaths during that time period. The mortality rate from pneumonia and the flu held steady between 1980 and 2014, at 17.1 per 100,000.

Brown’s team also found that mortality from vector-borne infections rose slightly. That was related to the introduction of the West Nile virus in 1999. Since 2002, the average yearly mortality rate from all vector-borne infections has stood at 0.05 deaths per 100,000 people.


Hansen V, Oren E, Dennis LK, Brown HE. Infectious Disease Mortality Trends in the United States, 1980-2014. JAMA. 2016;316(20):2149-2151. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.12423.

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