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Snohomish Health District is the local public health agency for Snohomish County in Washington state. Our news releases are a resource for current public health information for media, the public, policymakers, and other community partners.

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Local rate for SIDS deaths continues high

Parents can reduce risks related to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

SNOHOMISH COUNTY --- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of unexpected infant deaths in Snohomish County, according to the county’s Child Death Review Committee. Of 4,826 births between January and July this year, eight babies died of SIDS, similar to the number of SIDS deaths in the same span of 2001. These figures are double the SIDS deaths in recent years. From 1988 through 2000, the incidence rate of SIDS (deaths per 1000 live births) declined in Snohomish County and statewide.

“Although we still don’t know what causes SIDS, we do know that parents can reduce some of the environmental risks associated with many of the deaths,” said M. Ward Hinds, MD, MPH, health officer for Snohomish County. “Nevertheless, SIDS deaths can occur even when no known risk factors are present,” he said. Two-thirds of the nation’s SIDS victims have no known risk factors.

Dr. Hinds recommended that parents or caregivers:

  • Always put baby on his or her back to sleep.
  • Put baby to sleep on a firm mattress and in a safety approved crib. Remove blankets, sheepskins, pillows or stuffed toys from the crib.
  • Don’t smoke during pregnancy. Do not allow smoking in baby’s home.
  • Keep baby warm, but not hot. The room temperature should feel comfortable to you.
  • Avoid bedsharing. It may increase the risk, especially when combined with other factors.
  • Keep baby healthy through good prenatal care, breastfeeding and well-child check-ups.

Most of the recent SIDS babies in Snohomish County had been bedsharing with parents. Two thirds of these SIDS babies who bedshared also had not been sleeping on their backs.

SIDS is one of the most common causes of death for children younger than one year in the United States, claiming 2,151 lives in 2000. In 1990, there were 185 SIDS deaths in Washington state, almost 30 percent of all infant deaths. By 2001, the number of SIDS deaths in Washington state fell to only 60 — about 13 percent of all infant deaths. Much of this decline is attributed to a national “Back to Sleep” campaign and a reduction in the proportion of women who smoke during pregnancy. As of July 2002, SIDS accounted for 31 percent of all infant deaths in Snohomish County.

Snohomish Health District participates in the county’s child death review process. Statistics and narrative details about the incidence of SIDS in Snohomish County are available on the Health District’s Web site at Click on the A-Z index and go to EpiNews.

For more information about SIDS, call the SIDS Foundation of Washington at 1.800.533.0376, or visit these Web sites:,, and

Established in 1959, the Snohomish Health District works to improve the health of individuals, families and communities through disease prevention, health promotion, and protection from environmental threats.