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Sudden Cardiac Death Main Cause of Firefighter Fatalities

Motor vehicle accidents are second, emphasizing the importance of emergency vehicle response protocols

FRIDAY, April 28 (HealthDay News) -- Sudden cardiac death is the leading cause of fatalities for volunteer and career firefighters, and the second-leading cause is traumatic injury due to motor vehicle accidents, according to a report in the April 28 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Members of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed data from the U.S. Fire Administration to characterize fatalities among the estimated 800,000 volunteer and 300,000 career firefighters currently in the United States. Two cases representative of the most common types of fatalities are summarized.

The report finds that 53 percent of fatalities between 1994 and 2004 were among volunteers, while 32 percent were career firefighters, the remainder occurring in part-time or on-call workers. In one case, the driver of a vehicle carrying two volunteers (ages 19 and 23) was killed after they lost control of the vehicle while traveling 80 mph in a 55-mph zone. In the second case, a career fireman with a history of myocardial infarction collapsed five minutes after assisting in a second-floor fire. An autopsy revealed cardiovascular disease and more than 85 percent narrowing of three coronary arteries.

"Adoption and enforcement of existing fire-service recommendations regarding fitness standards, mandatory medical evaluations with appropriate work restrictions, and emergency vehicle response protocols are needed to prevent these fatalities among firefighters," the authors write.

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