197027 Drowning in the desert: Medical examiner-investigated drownings in New Mexico, 1996-2006

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 9:00 AM

Sarah L. Lathrop, DVM, PhD , Office of the Medical Investigator/Dept. of Pathology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM
Veena D. Singh, MD , Pima County Forensic Science Center, Tucson, AZ
Background: Given that New Mexico is an arid state with less than 1% of its surface area covered in water, and a documented paucity of residential swimming pools, one would assume drowning would be a rare cause of death in this desert state. Surprisingly, drowning consistently occurs at a higher rate in New Mexico than in the United States as a whole.

Methods: In order to examine patterns of drowning in New Mexico, we retrospectively reviewed all primary drowning deaths investigated by the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator from 1996 to 2006.

Results: We identified 307 cases, of which 86 were female (28%) and 221 (72%) male. Ages ranged from 7 hours to 87 years, with a median of 35 years. The highest number of deaths was in young males, with 40 deaths among males ages 15-24 years. The highest percentage of drowning deaths was in adults ages 25-44, with 102 deaths (33%) in this age category. Sixty-six of the deaths (21%) were in children ages 18 years and younger. Most drownings (51%) occurred during the summer months and most(90%) were accidental. The largest percentage of deaths (45%) occurred in lakes or rivers, 18% of deaths occurred in bathtubs, and 17% occurred in irrigation ditches. Most bathtub drownings (73%) were adults. Deaths involving swimming pools were rare (7.5%). A large percentage (48%) of decedents were intoxicated at the time of death.

Conclusions: Drowning prevention strategies should focus on recreational water safety, alcohol awareness and bathtub safety.

Learning Objectives:
1) Describe the demographics of drowning victims in New Mexico from 1996-2006 2) List the most common locations and circumstances of drownings in New Mexico 3) Compare drownings in New Mexico to those in other parts of the United States 4) List possible prevention measures to reduce drowning rates in New Mexico

Keywords: Mortality, Epidemiology

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to be an abstract author on the content I am responsible for because I have been working as an epidemiologist at the University of New Mexico for the past six years, designing, conducting and publishing analyses of medicolegal death investigation data in order to address issues of public health significance. I have published numerous peer-reviewed publications on topics including drug overdose deaths, youth suicides, and infectious disease surveillance. I am a faculty member at UNM's Health Sciences Center, and teach epidemiology and statistics to medical students and residents. I have previously presented similar content at national meetings, including APHA.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.