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MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2015 Feb 20;64(6):141-3.

Hypothermia-related deaths--Wisconsin, 2014, and United States, 2003-2013.


Hypothermia is defined as a core body temperature of <95°F (<35°C) and is caused by environmental exposure, drug intoxication, or metabolic or nervous system dysfunction. Exposure to cold is a leading cause of weather-related mortality and is responsible for approximately twice the number of deaths annually as exposure to heat in the United States. To understand the risk factors for hypothermia-related death and improve prevention efforts, during January 1-April 30, 2014, a period of record low temperatures, the Wisconsin Division of Public Health began active surveillance for hypothermia. Suspected hypothermia-related deaths were reported by coroners or medical examiners and identified in death records. Hypothermia was confirmed as the cause of death by review of death investigation narratives. This report describes three selected cases of hypothermia-related deaths in Wisconsin and summarizes characteristics of all cases that occurred in the state during the period of active surveillance. A summary of hypothermia-related deaths for the United States during 2003-2013 also is presented for comparison and to assess national mortality trends. Hypothermia continues to be an important cause of weather-related death. Key risk factors include drug intoxication, mental illness, and social isolation. State and local health agencies might need to focus outreach on vulnerable populations and target interventions for groups at highest risk for death.

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