The New Mexico Department of Health (DOH) alerted the public on Feb. 7 about a recent increase in carbon monoxide poisoning cases in the state.
According to DOH, this comes as temperatures decrease and snowfall occurs at the higher elevations. Hospital emergency departments have observed a rise in carbon monoxide-related visits since fall 2023, demanding urgent attention and heightened awareness.
“Carbon monoxide is a hidden danger,” DOH Secretary Patrick Allen said.
The DOH’s Environmental Public Health Tracking Program reveals that 89 statewide emergency department visits for carbon monoxide poisonings were reported from the National Syndromic Surveillance Program since Oct. 1. Additionally, within the same period, there was one fatality of a male in his 50s in Chaves County.
DOH says there were 73 carbon monoxide-related deaths in the state from 2017-21.
Carbon monoxide is a highly toxic gas that a person cannot see, smell or taste. It is found in combustion fumes, such as those produced by gas heaters, small gasoline engines, stoves, generators, lanterns and gas ranges, or by burning charcoal and wood.
At-risk populations, including infants, pregnant women, the elderly, and individuals with chronic heart disease, anemia, or respiratory illness, and those working with or around combustion engines, face elevated dangers.
Some of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, such as headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and an altered mental status, are crucial to people determining if they have been poisoned. Immediate medical attention is imperative, as survivors may develop long-term neurological problems.
DOH emphasizes preventative measures to curb carbon monoxide exposure:
- Annual servicing of heating systems, water heaters and gas, oil, or coal-burning appliances by qualified technicians.
- Installation of carbon monoxide detectors in homes, businesses, RVs, cabins or barns with bi-annual battery replacements.
- Strict avoidance of using generators, charcoal grills, camp stoves or other fuel-burning devices indoors or near open windows.
- Never running automobiles inside attached garages, even with doors open.
- Avoiding heating homes with gas ovens and running gasoline-powered engines at least 20 feet from windows, doors or vents.
For additional guidance, visit the NMDOH Environmental Public Health Tracking Program page on carbon monoxide poisoning, refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s page for additional prevention tips or contact the New Mexico Poison and Drug Information Center at 1-800-222-1222.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is a notifiable condition in the state of New Mexico. Hospitals, clinics, practitioners and first responders should immediately report any suspected carbon monoxide poisoning by calling the DOH Helpline at 1-833-796-8773.