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Three Virginia Tech Students in Good Condition; Expert Stresses Need for Carbon Monoxide Detectors

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Duke Health News 919-660-1306

DURHAM, N.C. – The three Virginia Tech students brought to Duke University Medical Center Sunday for treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning are listed in good condition.

The three 19-year-old sophomores – Elizabeth Burgin, Carolyn Dorman and Nichole Howarth – have received two treatments at Duke's hyperbaric medicine center and are expected to receive a third this afternoon. The women's physician, Bret Stolp, M.D., associate professor of anesthesiology and hyperbaric medicine specialist, anticipates that the women will be able to go home on Tuesday.

"Situations like this emphasize the importance of having carbon monoxide detectors in buildings where people live," Stolp said. "More than 500 Americans die every year as a result of unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning. We should think of carbon monoxide detectors the same way we think of smoke detectors. They save lives."

Before receiving a second hyperbaric treatment this morning, the women reported that almost all of their symptoms had disappeared, Stolp said. These symptoms included uneven gait, generalized weakness and memory problems. They received their first hyperbaric treatment Sunday evening.

The hyperbaric chamber, which pushes pressurized oxygen into tissues and blood, is the standard treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning. Duke is one of a handful of medical centers in the Southeastern United States that has a hyperbaric chamber large enough to treat more than one person at a time.

The women will receive an additional evaluation after this afternoon's hyperbaric treatment, and Duke will provide additional updates on their condition later.

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