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Other highlights from the 2009 report include:
Death rates declined slightly for 10 of the 15 leading causes of death, including heart disease, cancer, stroke, accidents, Alzheimer's disease, homicide and influenza and pneumonia.
Suicide passed blood infections to become the 10th leading cause of death. Suicide rates did not change significantly, but the blood infection death rate dropped nearly 2 percent. That puts suicide back in the top 10 causes of deaths for the first time since 1999, Kochanek said.
The influenza/pneumonia death rate dropped nearly 5 percent, even though 2009 was the year that the swine flu pandemic hit.
Flu deaths rose by about 1,000 in 2009 from the year before, but pneumonia deaths dropped by nearly 4,000. Pneumonia is a flu complication most often seen in the elderly, and is a main reason why the overwhelming majority of flu-related deaths most years occur in the elderly. But while swine flu hit young adults and kids unusually hard, it caused relatively mild illness for people 55 and older.
"The irony is there were less deaths because the elderly were spared in this pandemic," said Dr. Keith Klugman, a professor of global health at Atlanta's Emory University.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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