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Characterizing Fentanyl-Associated Mortality using the Literal Causes of Death


In October 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released health advisory #384 to inform people about increases in fentanyl fatalities. Florida’s statewide syndromic surveillance system, Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics (ESSENCE-FL), captures electronic death record data in near real time which allows for the monitoring of mortality trends across the state. One limitation of using death record data for fentanyl surveillance is the lack of a fentanyl-specific overdose ICD-10 code; however, the literal cause of death fields (“literals”) provide a level of detail that is rich enough to capture mentions of fentanyl use. The “literals” are a free text field on the death certificate, recorded by a physician at the time of death and detail the factors that led to the death. ESSENCE-FL has the benefit of not only receiving death record data in near real-time, but also receiving the literal cause of death fields. This work analyzes trends in fentanyl-associated mortality in Florida over time by using the literal cause of death fields within death records data obtained from ESSENCE-FL.


To characterize fentanyl-associated mortality in Florida using free text queries of the literal causes of death listed on death certificates.



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