HealthDay News — More patients are dying due to hypothermia in the United States, according to research published in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Local agencies have gotten better at responding to extreme cold emergencies by opening public warming shelters and taking other measures, but the CDC researchers concluded that more needs to be done.

“This report suggests that state and local health agencies also might need to focus more on public education, communication networks to reach the most vulnerable persons, and targeted interventions for groups at risk,” wrote Jon Meiman, MD, and colleagues.

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In the United States, 13,419 hypothermia deaths occurred between 2003 and 2013, with unadjusted annual rates ranging from 0.3 to 0.5 per 100,000 persons. A statistically significant increase in death rates from hypothermia occurred over the decade, according to the report.

Men and women aged 65 or older are at much greater risk of hypothermia death. Average death rates for male seniors were 1.8 per 100,000 people during the decade in question, while female seniors had a 1.1 per 100,000 people hypothermia death rate.

To better understand the risk factors for hypothermia, the Wisconsin Division of Public Health in 2014 began active surveillance for extreme-cold deaths. Between January 2014 and April 2014, there were 27 hypothermia-related deaths in Wisconsin. Two-thirds of the people who died of hypothermia in Wisconsin were men, aged 66 years on average.

About one in five were intoxicated, subsequent toxicology tests determined. The average outdoors temperature at the estimated time of death was 6 degrees Fahrenheit, found the public health officials.