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Synopsis for January 12, 2006

The MMWR is embargoed until Thursday, 12 PM EST.

  1. Nonfatal Unintentional Medication Exposure Among Young Children – United States, 2001-2003
  2. Overweight Among K-12 Students – Arkansas, 2003-04 and
  3. Multiple Outbreaks of Gastrointestinal Illness Among School Children Associated with Consumption of Flour Tortillas – Massachusetts 2003-2004
There is no MMWR telebriefing scheduled for January 13, 2005

Nonfatal Unintentional Medication Exposures Among Young Children – United States, 2001-2003

Parents and others who are responsible for supervising children should remain vigilant in protecting children from inadvertent access to medications. Medications should be stored securely and kept out of children’ reach at all times – this includes medications left in purses or pill boxes.

Gail Hayes
Press Officer

Young children are at risk of swallowing medications commonly found at home, especially when medications are not stored properly. This study shows an estimated 53,500 children ages four years and younger were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments each year from 2001-2003 for taking medications intended for others or given in error. Researchers found those treated were mostly one to two year olds and were likely to swallow medication while at home. Of those that ingested medicine, almost one in 10 children were hospitalized or transferred for specialized care. National estimates were based on 3600 sample cases. About 40 percent of ingestions for these sample cases were common over-the-counter drugs, while prescription drugs accounted for most of the remaining cases. Keeping medications securely stored and out of children’s reach at all times will help to prevent these exposures. Adults should also be alert to children’s potential access to medications left in purses or in daily use containers such as pill boxes

  • From 2001-2003, an estimated 53,517 children ages 4 years and younger (273.5 per 100,000 children in this age range) were treated for medication exposures in U.S. hospital emergency departments
  • 72 percent of these medication exposures were in children ages 1-2 years and at least 75 percent of these exposures occurred in the home
  • 42 percent of medication exposures reported were common over-the-counter drugs such as acetaminophen, cold and cough agents, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents, antihistamines, and vitamins

Overweight Among K-12 Students – Arkansas, 2003-04 and 2004-05

Arkansas’ BMI initiative supports families by providing them with information that they can use to make informed decisions about their children’s health. As the first state in the nation to take such an in-depth look at childhood and adolescent obesity, Arkansas’s data provides a detailed assessment of the prevalence of obesity among public school girls and boys of various ages and races. Large-scale longitudinal studies will help the country answer questions about this threat to children’s health.

Lorrie Barr,
Arkansas Center for Health Improvement

Although the U.S. is facing an obesity epidemic, data indicate that parents often fail to recognize when their children have a weight problem. Many also do not understand the health risks of childhood obesity. With the passage of Act 1220, Arkansas enacted a multifaceted strategy to address childhood and adolescent obesity by providing parents and communities with information that can inform health policy decisions. Annual body mass index (BMI) assessments of ~440,000 public school students were one strategic action. Results of the BMI assessments, information on health risks associated with overweight, and recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics were included in confidential child health reports sent to parents. Longitudinal BMI assessments provide Arkansas with a large and credible dataset on childhood obesity prevalence that will enable the state to monitor trends and evaluate the impact of community- and school-based interventions

Multiple Outbreaks of Gastrointestinal Illness Among School Children Associated with Consumption of Flour Tortillas – Massachusetts 2003-2004

School officials must be aware of the need for rapid action in the face of short incubation period and short duration of illness and should notify the appropriate local and state health officials immediately.

Tracey LaPorte
Massachusetts State Health Department

This article describes multiple outbreaks of short incubation period and short duration illness among school children after consumption of lunch provided by the schools they attended. The characteristics of these outbreaks were similar to outbreaks identified across the U.S. in 1997-1998. Consumption of flour tortillas from a single manufacturer was significantly associated with illness. Preliminary results indicated that high levels of potassium bromate and calcium propionate were identified in the implicated tortillas. These outbreak investigations highlight the need for timely notification of public health officials and interagency collaboration at the local, state and federal levels to ensure rapid response and collection of epidemiologic information as well as clinical and food samples.


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This page last reviewed January 12, 2006

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