Hyperpyrexia due to air-conditioning failure in a nursing home.
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Hyperpyrexia due to air-conditioning failure in a nursing home.

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  • English

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    • Alternative Title:
      Public Health Rep
    • Description:
      During the period August 9--13, 1976, 21 of 89 residents of a nursing home in southeastern Florida had sudden onset of fever--temperature greater than 38.1 degrees C (100.6 degrees F) with no accompanying symptoms. Five residents, whose temperatures ranged from 39.4 degrees C (103 degrees F) to 41.3 degrees C (106.4 degrees F), died. No viral or bacterial pathogens were isolated. None of the nursing home's 123 employees and volunteers had similar illness. The air-conditioning system was shut down for repairs from August 9 through August 12, a time when recorded peak temperatures outdoors ranged from 30.6 degrees C (87 degrees F) to 32.2 degrees C (90 degrees F). The only recorded temperature inside the nursing home for that period was 31.7 degrees C (89 degrees F). Laboratory and epidemiologic data were consistent with the theory that the illness was due to hyperpyrexia, secondary to environmental conditions, rather than to an infectious agent. The episode was considered analogous to the nonspecific increased mortality of elderly and chronically ill persons during an urban heat wave. The episode points up the need for prompt recognition and intervention when there is the potential for heat stress in elderly and chronically ill patients. Buildings housing such patients must be designed so that alternative ventilation can be provided when the central air-conditioning system fails.
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