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Drop in unexplained baby deaths

Unexplained infant deaths have fallen to their lowest level since records began in 1995, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics.

In England and Wales in 2006, the total number of babies dying from unexplained causes, including cot death, totalled 281 - a 36% reduction on the 440 deaths recorded in 1996. The 2006 figure was also a 14% decrease on the previous year.

The rate of unexplained infant deaths has also fallen to its lowest level since the figures were first compiled. In 1995, the death rate was over 0.6 per 1,000 live births, but by 2006 this figure had fallen to 0.42 deaths.

Unexplained infant deaths include sudden infant deaths - commonly called cot deaths - and those where the cause of death is unascertained or unknown.

Between 2002 and 2006, the infant death rate for boys was 1.3 times higher than that for girls. Over the same period, 20% of all unexplained deaths occurred in the first 27 days of life, while 65% of all unexplained deaths occurred in the first three months.

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Office for National Statistics