University of Wisconsin–Madison Medical College of Wisconsin

Carbon Monoxide Exposure and Poisoning Cases in Wisconsin, 2006–2016

Grace M. Christensen, MPH; Paul D. Creswell, PhD; Jon G. Meiman, MD

WMJ. 2019;118(1):21-26.

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Introduction: Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is responsible for over 450 deaths and 21,000 Emergency Department visits annually in the United States. In Wisconsin, multiple large-scale CO poisoning events have occurred in recent years. This analysis explores trends in CO exposure events in the state from 2006 through 2016.

Methods: Wisconsin Poison Center (WPC) CO exposure data from January 1, 2006 through December 31, 2016 was analyzed for trends over time. CO poisoning cases were classified using the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists case definition.

Results: During the study period, 3,703 persons were exposed to CO and 2,148 were poisoned. On average, 337 persons were exposed annually over this period, with an annual average of 195 suspected and probable poisoning cases per year, as reported to the WPC. Large-scale events (≥ 5 persons) accounted for 4.8% (n = 104) of all events. Using data extracted from WPC case notes for large-scale exposures, the most common source of exposure was furnaces or water heaters (20.2%; n = 21) followed by fire (8.7%; n = 9).

Conclusions: Despite public health efforts to reduce CO exposures, CO poisoning continues to affect Wisconsin residents. Efforts to prevent large scale CO poisonings should focus on awareness of CO exposure within the home, as well as the risk in public or occupational settings. Moreover, these efforts should focus on improving the use of CO detectors in all settings to prevent exposure. The WPC can be used as a resource for clinicians in cases of CO exposure and poisoning.

Author Affiliations: Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Health (Christensen, Creswell, Meiman); Applied Epidemiology Fellowship, Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Christensen); Department of Population Health Sciences, University of Wisconsin Madison, (Creswell), Madison, Wis.
Corresponding Author: Grace M. Christensen, MPH, Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 1 W Wilson St, Room 150, Madison, WI 53703; phone 608.267.3227; fax 608.257.4853; email
Acknowledgements: This analysis was supported in part by an appointment to the Applied Epidemiology Fellowship Program administered by the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) and funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Cooperative Agreement Number 1U38OT000143-05.
Funding/Support: Fellowship support from the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (Christensen).
Financial Disclosures: None declared.
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