EPIDEMIOLOGY OF CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING IN LJUBLJANA FROM 1990 TO 1999
Background. Carbon monoxide (CO) is the most common lethal poisoning. The incidence of sublethal CO poisoning in Slovenia is not known. The aim of the study was to investigate the epidemiology of sublethal acute CO poisoning in Ljubljana region (Slovenia).
Methods. A retrospective study involved CO poisoned patients admited to Poison Control Centre and Centre of Intensive Care Medicine of the University Medical Centre Ljubljana, between January 1, 1990 and December 31, 1999.
Results. There were annualy approximately 2.4 cases of sublethal CO poisonings per 100.000 population in Ljubljana region. Of these, 25% were suicide attempts and 75% were unintentional poisonings (28% happened in domestic environment as a result of heating, cooking or bathing, 22% were associated with fire, 11% happened in the working site, 10% happened in the workroom at home and only 3% occurred in the moving vehicle). Among the patients there were 72% male and 28% female. The domestic source of CO was a gas water heater or residential heating device in the 63% of the cases, a coal stove in the 32% and an oil heater in the 6%. In the 18% of the suicide attempts we found also acute drug or alcohol intoxication, and 18% of patients poisoned in the fire were intoxicated with alcohol. Collective poisoning happened in the 25% of cases affecting from 2 to 6 persons.
Conclusions. The incidence of sublethal CO poisoning in Ljubljana region appers to be seven times lower than in other countries. The main reason is misdiagnosing of CO poisoning. In the future we should consider CO poisoning more often, particularly in all patients with flu-like symptoms, unexplained headache and worsening of pre-existing diseases. We should always exclude the collective poisoning and the presence of alcohol or other drugs.
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