At the turn of the twentieth century, diarrhea was one of the leading causes of death in the United States. In the 1990s, however, diarrhea accounted for less than 0.5 percent of all deaths in the United States.3 Most diarrheal deaths occur in the elderly and the young.34 Worldwide, however, diarrhea remains one of the leading causes of death. In fact, in 1990, diarrhea was listed as the fourth leading cause of death globally and was responsible for a total of 2.9 million deaths. 5 Despite the low US mortality rate, diarrhea causes significant morbidity. It is the second most common reason for work absenteeism and is estimated to cost $608 million in lost productivity per year.67
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