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7-Year-Old Girl Dies In Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

A 7-year-old Polk County girl died Wednesday from carbon-monoxide poisoning at a home with a generator running inside after Hurricane Irma, authorities said.

Polk County sheriff's officials said in a news release that Terryn Wilson’s mother called 911, saying she woke up feeling dizzy and her daughter appeared to be dead.

Rescue workers found the mother, Shashunda Wilson, sitting outside the Lakeland duplex. She was taken to a hospital after telling rescuers the generator was still running in the living room. The woman and her daughter had been sleeping in the bedroom with a fan blowing.

After rescue workers opened the home's windows to let the deadly gas out, deputies retrieved the girl's body. Authorities say nobody else was affected. Shashunda Wilson is in critical, but stable, condition in a Miami hospital.

The sheriff's office said on Thursday that Wilson told them she had gotten a generator after losing power during the hurricane. She said she had never used one before and was not aware it shouldn't be run inside the house.

Polk County medical examiner Stephen Nelson concluded the cause of death was carbon monoxide intoxication. The level in the home was measured at 150 parts per million.

At least six other people around Florida have died in similar incidents after Hurricane Irma, including a 26-year-old man who died at a hospital Thursday, a day after being found at his home near Hialeah.

Hernando County officials say a dog likely died from the carbon monoxide poisoning Wednesday morning and a house burned down on Monday after a generator caught fire.

Tampa Electric public relations manager Cherie Jacobs says generators should never be used inside. Instead, she says it should be in a well-ventilated place away from a house.

"This means not in a garage, not in a carport, not in a patio or a deck and this is so you can air out that, ventilate that carbon monoxide, which is deadly," she said.

She added that generators should only be used to power individual appliances, using extension cords, and always follow manufacturers' directions.

"Please do not wire that generator to your breaker box or attach it to your whole house using an outlet.  That can create a dangerous situation for line crews," she said. "This is called backfeed and it creates electricity and sends it on the power lines and if crews are working in your area, that can be very dangerous for them."

The same rules apply to gas and charcoal grills and anything that burns wood or kerosene. 

Children are especially vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning.  Its symptoms include confusion, fatigue, nausea and vomiting. 

As carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas, health officials suggest keeping a battery-operated carbon monoxide monitor in your house.

Mark Schreiner has been the producer and reporter for "University Beat" on WUSF 89.7 FM since 2001 and on WUSF TV from 2007-2017.