That was an improvement over 2010, when homicides killed almost 20 times as many infants as the flu killed. That year 311 infants were killed by homicidal assaults and 16 were killed by influenza.
In addition to the 25 infants who died of influenza in 2011, according to the CDC, another 157 died of pneumonia and another 68 died of congenital pneumonia. But even when all the infant deaths from flu, pneumonia and congenital pneumonia are added together, the 250 babies killed by these three causes in 2011 were fewer than 256 killed by homicides.
Overall, 23,907 babies age one year or less died in 2011 and 24,586 died in 2010.
The top five causes of death for infants in 2011 were congenital malformations, deformations and chromosomal abnormalities (4,984), disorders related to short gestation and low birth weight (4,116), sudden infant death syndrome (1,711), newborns affected by maternal complications of pregnancy (1,578) and unintentional injuries through accidents (1,089). (To see the CDC's full list of the causes of death for American infants in 2011 click here and scroll to Table 5.)
Homicide (256) ranked just below diarrhea and gastroenteritis of infectious origin (257) as a cause of death for American babies under one year of age.
The 256 born babies who were deliberately killed in the United States last year, according to the CDC, equaled almost three times the 87 babies who died as a result of Down’s Syndrome.
According to the CDC, 6 of the infant homicide victims were shot to death, 21 were killed by hanging, suffocation or strangulation; 78 were killed through neglect, abandonment or other maltreatment syndromes; and 151 were killed by other unspecified means.
The numbers cited here are the preliminary ones published by the CDC for calendar year 2011, and the number of babies who were victims of homicide in that year may be adjusted over time as medical and legal investigations are completed.
“Furthermore, for some deaths, especially those subject to medico-legal investigation such as unintentional injuries, homicides, suicides, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), the final cause may not be available at the time the preliminary file is processed. In those cases, the causes of death may be reported in the preliminary file as unknown or pending investigation,” said the CDC report.
Homicide, the CDC report said, “showed a 1.2 percent underestimate in the preliminary file in 2009 and 2010, but a 0.1 overestimate in 2008.”
While the CDC has thus far determined that homicides took the lives of 256 American infants in 2011, it reported that no American babies died last year as a result of, among other possible causes, measles, chicken pox, mumps, polio, tetanus, diphtheria, gonococcal infection, or disorders related to long gestation and high birth weight.