Friday, March 13, 2015

Rural counties in the West have highest rates of deaths from exposure to cold, says CDC study

Deaths from exposure to cold are more likely to happen in rural counties in the West than in any other area of the U.S., says a study by the Centers for Disease Control published in the British Medical Journal, Laura Geggel reports for Live Science. The study counted all counties west of the Rocky Mountains as part of the West.

The study found that from 2010 to 2013, about 5,800 people died from exposure to cold, Geggel writes. In rural western counties that equals 20.5 deaths for every 1 million people, compared to 4.5 to 7.8 deaths for every 1 million people in other non-metro areas. In metro areas the rates were 2.9 to 5 deaths for every 1 million people.

While the study didn't offer a reason for the higher rate in the West, a 2014 CDC report suggested "that people have an increased risk of dying from the cold if they live in places with rapid temperature shifts, large shifts in nighttime temperatures or high elevation," Geggel writes. The 2014 study also found that weather-related deaths "are two to seven times higher in low-income counties than in high-income counties, the 2014 study found. Many of the rural counties in the American West have high rates of poverty."

Those most at risk to suffer weather-related deaths are "elderly, infants, men, African Americans and people with pre-existing chronic medical conditions, such as cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses," Geggel writes.

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