With increased reports of carbon monoxide poisoning, including two fatalities, Monongalia County emergency officials are warning West Virginia University students and others to use care in coping should they lose power.

“During winter storms when there are power outages the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning becomes greater,” said Michael Wolfe, deputy director for the Monongalia County Office of Emergency Management. “Everyone is at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning but babies and infants, the elderly and people with chronic heart disease, anemia or respiratory illness are more at risk.”

An elderly Monongalia County couple died Monday of expected carbon monoxide poisoning as they were using an insufficiently vented gasoline-powered generator to provide heat. Hospital officials have also reported an increase in the occurence of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, poisonous gas that can cause sudden illness and death if present in sufficient concentration in the air. When power outages occur during emergencies such as the recent winter storms, the use of alternative sources of fuel or electricity for heating, cooling, or cooking can cause carbon monoxide to build up in a home, garage, or camper and poison the people and animals inside.

The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, altered mental status and loss of consciousness. Coma and death can result.

Exposure can be prevented by following these guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Do have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • Do install a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. If the detector sounds leave your home immediately and call 911.
  • Do seek prompt medical attention if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed, or nauseous.
  • Don’t use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, or garage or near a window.
  • Don’t run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open.
  • Don’t burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn’t vented.
  • Don’t heat your house with a gas oven.

For more information log onto http://www.cdc.gov/co/default.htm or call 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348.


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