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Celebration of the Fourth of July: A Successful Campaign for Improvement

20:00 EDT 3 Jul 2017 | JAMA

In 1903 The Journal began the collection of statistics regarding deaths and injuries resulting from the use of fireworks in the celebration of the Fourth of July. In addition to securing data through news-clipping bureaus, blanks were sent to physicians, health officers and hospitals, requesting lists of casualties. From the beginning, special efforts were made to obtain information as to cases of tetanus resulting from these injuries. The tabulated figures of injuries and the enormous proportion of deaths from lockjaw were a revelation. In the report published in The Journal in 1903 it was shown that in the celebration that year, 4,449 people had been injured, and that 466 had died. Of those injured, many had lost their sight, had legs, arms or hands blown off, or were otherwise maimed for life. Of those fatally injured, 406, mostly children, died a slow, agonizing death from lockjaw. In the report, particular attention was called to the fact that the great majority of lockjaw cases had resulted from blank cartridge injuries, and special directions were given regarding the care of such wounds. Reprints of the report were circulated, but not to so great an extent as was done a few years later.

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