Clinico-epidemiological profile and predictors of severe illness in young infants (0-59 days) in Ghana

Ann Trop Paediatr. 2008 Mar;28(1):35-43. doi: 10.1179/146532808X270653.


Background: Young infant mortality has remained high and relatively unchanged compared with deaths of older infants. Strategies to reduce infant mortality, however, are mostly targeted at the older child.

Objectives: To describe the clinical profile of sick young infants presenting to a hospital and to define important signs and symptoms that will enable health workers to detect young infants with severe illness requiring hospital admission.

Methods: Young infants aged 0-59 days presenting to a paediatric out-patient clinic were evaluated by a nurse using a standardised list of signs and symptoms. A paediatrician independently evaluated these children and decided whether they needed hospitalisation.

Results: A total of 685 young infants were enrolled, 22% of whom were <7 days of age. The commonest reasons for seeking care were jaundice in the 0-6-day group, skin problems in the 7-27-day group and cough in the 28-59-day group. The primary clinical diagnoses for admissions were sepsis in the 0-6- and 7-27-day groups and pneumonia in the 28-59-day group. Clinical signs and symptoms predicting severe illness requiring admission were general (history of fever, difficult feeding, not feeding well and temperature >37.5 degrees C) and respiratory (respiratory rate > or =60/min, severe chest in-drawing).

Conclusion: General and respiratory signs are important predictors for severe illness in young infants. Training peripheral health workers to recognise these signs and to refer to hospital for further assessment and management might have a significant impact on young infant mortality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease / epidemiology*
  • Age Factors
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / diagnosis
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Ghana / epidemiology
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / epidemiology
  • Infections / diagnosis
  • Infections / epidemiology
  • Outpatient Clinics, Hospital
  • Prognosis
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / diagnosis
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / epidemiology
  • Skin Diseases / diagnosis
  • Skin Diseases / epidemiology
  • Triage / methods*
  • Triage / standards