Houston – Carbon monoxide (CO) is a gas that is odorless and colorless and sadly it’s already believed to be responsible for deaths and illnesses in the Houston area this week.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning not linked to fires. The CDC reports more than 20,000 people visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized.
The Cy-Fair Fire Department said they have responded to multiple calls for CO poisoning. They said 14 people, including seven children, had to be transported to a hospital for CO poisoning, and all those who were ill had been using grills to heat their homes.
There has been a surge in CO cases at local hospitals, including Memorial Hermann, which has seen over 100 CO patients since 3 p.m. Monday. Medical director Samuel Prater called the surge in cases an “absolute public health disaster” that he likened to a “mass casualty situation.”
“It really is just sad that it’s come to this,” Prater said. “It’s such a desperate time that people are resorting to very desperate measures to try to warm their family.”
According to Prater, children are more at risk of some of the long-term damages of CO poisoning because they consume more oxygen than adults.
“Fortunately, for carbon monoxide poisoning the therapy is oxygen, and we have plenty of oxygen to go around to administer to patients,” Prater said. “We’ll put families together in one room with multiple different oxygen delivery sources and give the family oxygen at the same time while we sort out which family members needs what’s called ‘hyperbaric oxygen therapy,’ because certain patients will need that if they have a severe poisoning.”