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Utilization of Emergency Department Data for Drug Overdose Surveillance in North Carolina


In North Carolina there has been an escalation of poisoning deaths. In 2011, the number of fatal poisonings was 1,368 deaths, with 91% classified as drug overdoses with the majority of those due to opioid analgesics.[1] Far greater numbers of drug overdoses result in hospitalization, emergency department (ED) or outpatient clinic visits, or resolve without the individual seeking medical attention. Although public health authorities have long employed death data for drug overdose surveillance in NC, little attention has been paid to the use of ED data for this purpose. Through the North Carolina Disease Event Tracking and Epidemiologic Collection Tool (NC DETECT), NC collects information on 99.5% of all acute-care ED visits across the state, primarily for syndromic surveillance purposes. Despite the timeliness and completeness of this data system, drug overdose surveillance is a challenge due to lack of a standardized definition for the positive identification of opioid overdoses. In this study we used NC DETECT ED data to describe visits due to drug, and more specifically, opioid overdoses. Objective: To describe the epidemiologic characteristics for emergency department visits due to drug overdoses in North Carolina.

Submitted by elamb on