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Open Access Research article

Changing epidemiologic patterns of deliberate self poisoning in a rural district of Sri Lanka

Lalith Senarathna12*, Shaluka F Jayamanna3, Patrick J Kelly2, Nick A Buckley14, Michael J Dibley2 and Andrew H Dawson15

Author Affiliations

1 South Asian Clinical Toxicology Research Collaboration, Faculty of Medicine, University of Peradeniya, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka

2 Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

3 Department of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya, Kelaniya, Sri Lanka

4 Professorial Medicine Unit, POW Clinical School, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

5 Royal Prince Alfred Clinical School, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:593  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-593

Published: 2 August 2012

Abstract

Background

Acute poisoning is a major public health issue in many parts of the world. The epidemiology and the mortality rate is higher in low and middle income countries, including Sri Lanka. The aim of this study was to provide details about the epidemiology of acute poisoning in a rural Sri Lankan district and to identify the changing patterns and epidemiology of poisoning.

Methods

A prospective study was conducted from September 2008 to January 2010 in all hospitals with inpatient facilities in Anuradhapura district of North Central Province of Sri Lanka. Acute poisoning data was extracted from patient charts. Selected data were compared to the data collected from a 2005 study in 28 hospitals.

Results

There were 3813 poisoned patients admitted to the hospitals in the Anuradhapura district over 17 months. The annual population incidence was 447 poisoning cases per 100,000 population. The total number of male and female patients was approximately similar, but the age distribution differed by gender. There was a very high incidence of poisoning in females aged 15–19, with an estimated cumulative incidence of 6% over these five years. Although, pesticides are still the most common type of poison, medicinal drug poisonings are now 21% of the total and have increased 1.6 fold since 2005.

Conclusions

Acute poisoning remains a major public health problem in rural Sri Lanka and pesticide poisoning remains the most important poison. However, cases of medicinal drug poisoning have recently dramatically increased. Youth in these rural communities remain very vulnerable to acute poisoning and the problem is so common that school-based primary prevention programs may be worthwhile.

Lalith Senarathna, Shaluka F Jayamanna, Patrick J Kelly, Nick A Buckley,michael J Dibley, Andrew H Dawson. These authors contributed equally to this work.