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Comparative Study
, 51 (9), 879-85

Carbon Monoxide Exposures in New York City Following Hurricane Sandy in 2012

Comparative Study

Carbon Monoxide Exposures in New York City Following Hurricane Sandy in 2012

B C Chen et al. Clin Toxicol (Phila).


Context: On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy made landfall and devastated New York's metropolitan area, causing widespread damage to homes and the utility infrastructure. Eight days later, snow and freezing temperatures from a nor'easter storm delayed utility restoration.

Objective: To examine carbon monoxide (CO) exposures in the 2 weeks following Hurricane Sandy. Methods. This was a retrospective review of prospectively collected, standardized, and de-identified data sets. CO exposures and poisonings identified from two electronic surveillance systems, the New York City Poison Control Center (NYCPCC) and New York City's Syndromic Surveillance Unit, were compared with CO exposures from identical dates in 2008-2011. Data collected from the poison center included exposure type, CO source, poisoning type, treatment, and outcomes. Data collected from the Syndromic Surveillance Unit cases, which were identified by CO-related chief complaints presenting to NYC hospitals, included visit date and time, and patient demographics.

Results: Four hundred thirty-seven CO exposures were reported to the NYCPCC, 355 from NYC callers, and the remainder from surrounding counties, which represented a significant increase when compared with CO exposures from identical dates in the preceding 4 years (p < 0.001). The total cases that were reported to the NYCPCC in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 were 18, 13, 24, and 61, respectively. Excluding a single apartment fire that occurred (n = 311), the more common sources of CO were grilling indoors (26.2%) and generators (17.5%). Syndromic surveillance captured 70 cases; 6 cases were captured by both data sets.

Conclusions: CO exposures following weather-related disasters are a significant public health concern, and the use of fuel-burning equipment is a clear source of storm-related morbidity and mortality. Multiple real-time epidemiologic surveillance tools are useful in estimating the prevalence of CO exposure and poisoning and are necessary to assist public health efforts to prevent CO poisoning during and after disasters.

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