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.
|Cause of death||Number of deaths (in 2016)|
|F52.2 Failure of genital response||1|
|J67.2 Bird fancier’s lung||1|
|A38 Scarlet fever||1|
|W35 Explosion and rupture of boiler||1|
|X54 Lack of water [ed. note: I know]||1|
|Y60.7 During administration of enema||1|
|B37.3 Candidiasis of vulva and vagina (yeast)||2|
|X32 Exposure to sunlight||2|
|W39 Discharge of firework||5|
|X20 Contact with venomous snakes and lizards||5|
|X21 Contact with venomous spiders||5|
|X29 Contact with unspecified venomous animal or plant||5|
|X48 Accidental poisoning by and exposure to pesticides||7|
|V96.1 Hang-glider accident injuring occupant||8|
|X10 Contact with hot drinks, food, fats, and cooking oils||8|
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.
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 white-rice-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 deep-fried-turkey oil or scalding coffee, hot liquids kill. Severe fluid burns or fryer-based fires can cause a life-threatening loss of bodily fluids, shock, and infections. Try brining instead.
This article was originally published in the Fall 2018 Tiny issue of Popular Science.