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J Environ Health. 2005 May;67(9):45-50, 58.

Struck-by-lightning deaths in the United States.

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Research Scientist, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA 30341, USA.


The objective of the research reported here was to examine the epidemiologic characteristics of struck-by-lightning deaths. Using data from both the National Centers for Health Statistics (NCHS) multiple-cause-of-death tapes and the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), which is maintained by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the authors calculated numbers and annualized rates of lightning-related deaths for the United States. They used resident estimates from population microdata files maintained by the Census Bureau as the denominators. Work-related fatality rates were calculated with denominators derived from the Current Population Survey of employment data. Four illustrative investigative case reports of lightning-related deaths were contributed by the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator. It was found that a total of 374 struck-by-lightning deaths had occurred during 1995-2000 (an average annualized rate of 0.23 deaths per million persons). The majority of deaths (286 deaths, 75 percent) were from the South and the Midwest. The numbers of lightning deaths were highest in Florida (49 deaths) and Texas (32 deaths). A total of 129 work-related lightning deaths occurred during 1995-2002 (an average annual rate of 0.12 deaths per million workers). Agriculture and construction industries recorded the most fatalities at 44 and 39 deaths, respectively. Fatal occupational injuries resulting from being struck by lightning were highest in Florida (21 deaths) and Texas (11 deaths). In the two national surveillance systems examined, incidence rates were higher for males and people 20-44 years of age. In conclusion, three of every four struck-by-lightning deaths were from the South and the Midwest, and during 1995-2002, one of every four struck-by-lightning deaths was work-related. Although prevention programs could target the entire nation, interventions might be most effective if directed to regions with the majority of fatalities because they have the majority of lightning strikes per year.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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