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January 1996

CDC is issuing a warning of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning risk to the residents in the Northeast affected by the blizzard of 1996.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has received reports that dozens of children and elderly people in the Northeast have been poisoned by CO while taking refuge from the cold in an idling vehicle. These poisonings are a result of exhaust seeping into the vehicle cabin because the exhaust pipe was filled with or obstructed by snow.

Carbon Monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas that is produced during any combustion process. The symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to early signs of the flu and include: fatigue, chest pain in people with heart disease, headache, nausea, dizziness, confusion, and impaired vision and coordination. CO poisoning can be fatal at high concentrations.

Reminders to residents:

1) Make sure your exhaust pipe is free from snow before starting your vehicle. This includes making sure no snow is packed inside the exhaust pipe.

2) Do not sit in a parked vehicle with the engine running, unless a window is open.

3) Do not leave anyone, especially children or elderly persons, in a parked vehicle with the engine running while shoveling snow.

4) If you have any of the symptoms of CO poisoning (headache, dizziness, nausea, etc.), immediately leave your vehicle and seek fresh air.

5) If you see someone in an idling vehicle who appears to be unconscious, immediately remove the victim from the vehicle into fresh air and call for emergency medical assistance (911).

For more information regarding CO poisoning prevention, call your local health departments.

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