Ter­ri­ble (but rare) deaths

Popular Science - - CONTENTS -

To coroners, ev­ery cause of death is a num­ber, a unique code that files in­ci­dents into a na­tional data­base. Each year, out­landish cases con­firm even our most para­noid fears: Burned by flam­ing wa­ter skis? God­speed, V91.07. Bit­ten by an orca? Rest in pieces, W56.21. Though no one per­ished on flam­ing sticks in 2016, yeast in­fec­tions and sun­light did do some folks in. These are some of Amer­ica’s strangest, small­est killers.

J67.2 BIRD FANCIER’S LUNG

Birds make for great meat, chatty pets, and comfy bed­ding. But avian drop­pings and feath­ers con­tain anti­gens and other ir­ri­tants that can be­come air­borne. In large quan­ti­ties, like in some pet stores or col­lec­tors’ homes, they can cause killer lung in­flam­ma­tion.

E51.1 BERIBERI

Chron­i­cally low thi­amine (vi­ta­min B1) can trig­ger beriberi, a dis­ease that can dam­age ei­ther the cir­cu­la­tory or the ner­vous sys­tem. It’s rare in the States but com­mon among peo­ple with whi­terice-based di­ets, or al­co­holics, whose liv­ers strug­gle to ab­sorb B1 from food.

X20, X21, X29 VENOM

Taken to­gether, 15 peo­ple died from en­coun­ters with ven­omous snakes, lizards, spi­ders, and other crit­ters in 2016. Thir­teen of the de­ceased were men, per­haps be­cause they’re more likely to have dan­ger­ous jobs; for in­stance, a ma­jor­ity of park rangers are male.

X10 CON­TACT WITH HOT DRINKS, FOOD, FATS, AND COOK­ING OILS

Whether it’s deep­fried-turkey oil or scald­ing cof­fee, hot liq­uids kill. Se­vere fluid burns or fryer­based fires can cause a lifethreat­en­ing loss of bod­ily flu­ids, shock, and in­fec­tions. Try brin­ing in­stead.

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