Increase in Cases of Poisoning over Last Three Years


Statistics from the Ministry of Health indicate that the number of confirmed cases of accidental poisoning has been increasing steadily over the last three years.
Health Minister, John Junor, who was addressing health personnel at the launch of the Caribbean Poison Information Network (CARPIN) at Eden Gardens, Kingston today (May 13), said a total of 696 confirmed cases of accidental poisoning were reported to the Surveillance Unit in 2004, compared to 520 in 2003.
He further pointed out, that the four most common poisons ingested were bleach and other corrosives, which accounted for 50 per cent of cases; kerosene, which accounted for 13 per cent; pesticides 13 per cent and pharmaceuticals 12 per cent. There was also serous threat of poisoning from old batteries left in yards, he noted.
Children under five years appear to be most vulnerable to poisoning, with 556 or 80 per cent of cases occurring in this age group. These children often consume bleach left in soft drink bottles, water bottles or cups. Kingston and St. Andrew have the highest incidents of poisoning.
“What does this say about our care and protection of our children?” the Minister asked, noting that, “there is certainly need for increased public education on the dangers involved and the issue of parental responsibility”.
The Minister however, pointed out, that the problem was not a local one as according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, pesticide poisoning in children continued to be a concern globally.
The Health Minister noted that treating poison patients put a strain on the health system and data from the Hospitals Monthly Statistical Reporting System indicate that over 1,300 patients are seen per year at hospitals island wide with complications from poisoning. “Hospitals bear the burden of the costs associated with accidental poisoning with the estimated cost of hospital care for accidental poisoning being $4.2 million per year, ” he reported.
He pointed out that health professionals have managed to maintain a good survival rate, with length of stay in hospital being only three days. He however, urged persons to endeavour to be more meticulous to avoid possible fatalities in the home as a result of carelessness.
Meanwhile, the Health Minister lauded the launch of CARPIN in May, which is Child’s Month and charged the organizers to undertake a public education programme over the next few months, “to help our people become sensitized to the importance of exercising care and caution in handling poisoned substances.” He noted that the launch of CARPIN, would enhance capacity in field research and data gathering, as well as revive the vital service of poison information and control. “CARPIN offers significant opportunities to maximize the use of technology and to facilitate the updating of skills in poison prevention methodologies,” the Minister stated.
He also used the opportunity to commend the National Health Fund for providing the necessary funds to give CARPIN a solid start.
CARPIN is located at the University of Technology campus in Kingston. Sections of the Ministry of Health, University of the West Indies, University Hospital of the West Indies, National Council on Drug Abuse and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture, were instrumental in its development.

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