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1. Overview of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the abrupt death of an infant under 1 year of age which remains unexplained after a conscientious case investigation, including the performance of a full autopsy, examination of the death scene, and evaluation of the clinical history (Willinger et. al., 1991). It leads to an infant death that leaves unrequited doubts, causing deep grief for parents and families.

SIDS is unforeseen, usually happening in seemingly healthy infants less than 1 year of age. A SIDS death happens quickly and generally during sleep. SIDS is rare during the first month of life. Even though SIDS can occur in older infants, most SIDS deaths occur by the end of the sixth month, with the maximum number occurring in infants between 2 and 4 months of age (AAP 2000).

In the United States, more SIDS cases are registered in the fall and winter than in spring or summer. SIDS happens more often in infant boys than in girls (approximately a 60- to 40-percent male-to-female ratio). African-American and American Indian infants are two to three times more probable to die from SIDS as other infants (NICHD 2001). Several Government agencies are increasing efforts to reach these populations with the latest information regarding SIDS.

Each year between 1983 and 1992, the average numbers of reported SIDS deaths vary from 5,000 to 6,000. Over the past few years, particularly since the mid-1990’s, the number of SIDS deaths has declined considerably. The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) reported that in 2000 in the United States, 2,523 infants under 1 year of age died from SIDS (NCHS 2002). Still, when considering the number of live births each year, SIDS remains the foremost cause of death in the United States among infants between 1 month and 1 year of age and the third leading cause of death in general among infants less than 1 year of age (NCHS 2002).

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