Poison Control Center Data in the NC DETECT Syndromic Surveillance System

Zachary Faigen, Lana Deyneka, Anne Hakenewerth, Michael C. Beuhler


ObjectiveTo describe Carolinas Poison Control Center (CPC) calls datacollected in the NC DETECT syndromic surveillance system.IntroductionCPC provides the 24/7/365 poison hotline for the entire state ofNorth Carolina and currently handles approximately 80,000 callsper year. CPC consultation services that assist callers with poisonexposure, diagnosis, optimal patient management, therapy, andpatient disposition guidance remain indispensable to the public andhealth care providers. Poison control center data have been used foryears in syndromic surveillance practice as a reliable data source forearly event detection. This information has been useful for a varietyof public health issues, including environmental exposures, foodbornediseases, overdoses, medication errors, drug identification, drug abusetrends and other information needs. The North Carolina Departmentof Health and Human Services started formal integration of CPCinformation into surveillance activities in 2004. CPC call data areuploaded in real time (hourly), 24/7/365, to the NC DETECT statedatabase.MethodsCPC calls collected by NC DETECT from 2009-2015 wereanalyzed in this descriptive study. Counts of CPC calls wereexamined by year to assess total volume and changes over time, bymonth to assess seasonality, by geographic location, and call sitefacility and call originator. CPC calls were also categorized by type ofcall – exposure calls versus information calls – in order to determinewhy people call CPC and to assess if any trends exist amongst thesecategories.ResultsThe majority of CPC calls originate from the caller’s own residence(53.40%). The age groups most represented are 0-1 years old,2-4 years old, and 25-44 years old. Calls to CPC were for male andfemale patients in approximately equal numbers. The region of NCthat has the highest number of calls, by a fairly wide margin, is theCharlotte Metro region. In 2009, the total number of CPC calls wasover 120,000. This number decreased monotonically every yearfollowing, with the total in 2015 being 80,000. This is a 1/3 reductionin the total number of calls over 7 years. When the calls were analyzedby type of call, an interesting trend emerged. The total number ofexposure calls remained relatively constant over the time period,ranging from 64,000 to 68,000 per year. However, the total number ofinformation calls decreased each year going from just over 40,000 toonly about 5,000. When examined by month to assess seasonality, thedata show an increase in the number of calls beginning in Februaryand peaking in May, and then a steady and slow decline throughoutthe rest of the year.ConclusionsOur study shows that CPC consultations from callers with exposureshave remained stable over time. However, in the absence of exposure,fewer people call CPC for information on various substances. Drugidentification calls saw a decrease each year during the study timeperiod. In 2009 there were 34,495 drug identification calls and in2015 there were 5,722. This dramatic decrease in information callsis most likely due to the increased use of the internet and searchengines. Because people have more access to the internet, especiallyvia mobile devices, they may not feel the need to call CPC to obtaininformation.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/ojphi.v9i1.7722

Online Journal of Public Health Informatics * ISSN 1947-2579 * http://ojphi.org