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Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2001 Sep;22(3):303-7.

Heat-related death and mental illness during the 1999 Cincinnati heat wave.

Author information

1
Epidemic Intelligence Service, Epidemiology Program Office, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. rik9@cdc.gov

Abstract

During a 1999 heat wave in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Hamilton County Coroner reported 18 heat-related deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Cincinnati Department of Health conducted a case-control study using surrogate case information and first-person control information to identify risk factors for mortality during the heat wave. Surrogate data were supplemented by systematic death scene investigation reports and comprehensive toxicologic screens, important sources of data that are routinely collected by the Hamilton County Coroner's Office. The study included 17 case subjects and 34 controls from the decedents' neighborhood. Among 17 case subjects, 8 (47.1%) had mental illness (odds ratio [OR], 14.0; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.8-633). There was a suggestion of an interaction between age and mental health. A working air-conditioner was the strongest protective factor (OR, 0.03; 95% CI, 0-0.2). Toxicologic screening indicated that case subjects with reported mental illness and a prescription for psychotropic drugs may not have been medication compliant. Three decedents lived in group homes for people with mental illness, indicating that opportunities for prevention may have been missed. Systematic death investigations, including toxicologic screening, provide valuable information about the circumstances of heat-related death, particularly the role of medication compliance as a risk factor. Prevention programs during heat waves should target people with mental illness, especially those who take psychotropic medication.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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