Poison center data is important to public health. Poison centers collect data in real time to detect poisoning trends and outbreaks. Below are two examples of successful monitoring:
New Sweden Arsenic Poisoning
In 2003, a small group of churchgoers in New Sweden, Maine, became sick after the post-service coffee and snacks. The local hospital consulted the NNEPC when patients arrived at the emergency department. An NNEPC hotline nurse was the first to suggest acute arsenic poisoning as a possible cause of their symptoms. The NNEPC worked with the health care team to get the patients appropriate testing, develop a treatment plan and provide follow-up and monitoring.
The National Poison Data System’s real-time surveillance monitor detected this event, allowing the American Association of Poison Control Centers to work with other federal agencies, such as the CDC and the FDA, to ensure that this was an isolated event and not a case of terrorism or contamination or tampering at a coffee factory.
Portland Poisonous Mushrooms
In the summer of 2008, the NNEPC received independent calls regarding chefs at two Portland area restaurants who became sick from eating foraged mushrooms that were poisonous. The NNEPC determined that the cases involved the same type of mushroom and alerted state health officials. The NNEPC has since worked with the Maine’s Health Inspection Program to form a mushroom advisory group to offer guidance to restaurants, chefs and foragers to prevent future mushroom poisonings.