A total of 410 proved cases of neonatal septicaemia from seven Finnish hospitals seen between 1976 and 1980 were reviewed. The annual incidence of neonatal septicaemia was 3 per 1000 births, and overall mortality was 23%. Onset was early in most patients. Symptoms of septicaemia occurred within the first 24 hours of life in 44% and within the first week of life in 90%. In the very early onset disease (within 24 hours) mortality was 30%, compared with 17% in all other cases. Group B streptococcus was the leading cause in very early onset disease (52%) but mortality from infection with this organism was similar to that in other very early onset cases. It is concluded that very early onset neonatal septicaemia, probably of intrauterine origin and caused by group B streptococcus in one half of the cases, constitutes the major form of neonatal septicaemia in Finland and should receive the highest priority in preventive measures.
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