DHEC: SC infant mortality drops for 4th year

South Carolina's rate of infant deaths has dropped for the fourth year in a row.

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control reported Wednesday that the overall decline is attributed to a decrease in accidental suffocations in bed and a drop in the cases of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

The agency says the 2009 infant mortality rate was 7.1 deaths for each 1,000 live births. That's down from the rate of 8.0 deaths for each 1,000 live births in 2008.

DHEC Commissioner Earl Hunter says the leading causes of death among infants less than a year old are congenital malformations and disorders among infants born prematurely or too small.