Sunday, July 19, 2015

Mortality among drowning rescuers in China, 2013: a review of 225 rescue incidents from the press


Title: Mortality among drowning rescuers in China, 2013: a review of 225 rescue incidents from the press
Authors: Zhu Y, Jiang X, Li H, Li F, Chen J.
Journal: BMC Public Health, July 2015

Multiple case studies in the past have confirmed the alarmingly high rate of rescuer deaths while attempting to save drowning victims, especially in untrained bystanders.  This study out of China analyzed online reports of drowning to determine the prevalence of and factors associated with rescuer deaths.

  • Findings
    • Total of 225 rescue incidents reported
    • 28 (12.4%) incidents resulted in at least one victim death
    • 40 (17.8%) incidents resulted in at least one rescuer death
    • 26 (11.6%) incidents with no victim deaths and more than one rescuer death
    • Factors associated with higher risk of rescuer death:
      • Rescuer was a child
      • Rescuer swam to victim
The fact that the mortality rate between rescuers and victims was "statistically indistinguishable" is scary.  There are few (if any) other diseases/injuries where the person trying to help the patient has a similar mortality rate.  Additional analysis found that those rescuers who chose to assist swimmers through direct contact in the water instead of reaching from a boat had a higher risk of mortality, further confirming the "Reach, Throw, Ro, Don't go!" mantra aimed at keeping rescuers safe.  The article did not go in to detail on the background training of the rescuers, but it can be assumed that little training and resources were available.

Evidence like this highlights the importance of broad public education in areas of high drowning prevalence, especially when trained rescue personnel are not within close proximity.  By taking simple steps to ensure rescuer safety (using a floating craft or another object to reach victim), the complex burden of drowning can be improved.

Reference:
Zhu Y, Jiang X, Li H, Li F, Chen J. Mortality among drowning rescuers in
China, 2013: a review of 225 rescue incidents from the press. BMC Public Health. 
2015 Jul 10;15(1):631.

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