What kills people during hurricanes? The answer may surprise you

Hurricane Matthew is keeping everyone guessing as it bounces around off the southeast U.S. coast.

It's killed as many as 800 people in Haiti and wrecked towns across the Caribbean. And two are reported dead in Florida.

But the storm, which is also waxing and waning in intensity, won't cause the same pattern of deaths in the U.S.

PHOTOS: Aftermath of Hurricane Matthew

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Aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, Cuba
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Aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, Cuba
A man cuts branches off fallen trees in a flooded area by a river after Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A woman stans by debris after the passage of Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A man fixes a roof of a partially built house after Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
Siline Crossaint poses for portrait inside her house, after Hurricane Matthew passes Cite-Soleil in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
A Haitian migrant is seen as a child rests inside a shelter, after leaving Brazil, where they were relocated to due to Haiti's 2010 earthquake, in Mexicali, Mexico, October 5, 2016. Picture taken October 5, 2016 REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
A Haitian migrant walks near garbage at the Hotel del Migrante shelter after leaving Brazil, where she relocated to after Haiti's 2010 earthquake, in Mexicali, Mexico, October 5, 2016. Picture taken October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Isma Nadenje poses for a portrait inside her house, after Hurricane Matthew passes Cite-Soleil in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
A girl cries as she stays with her relatives at a partially destroyed school after Hurricane Matthew passes Jeremie, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
A man stands next to a destroyed house after Hurricane Matthew passes Jeremie, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
People walk down the streets next to destroyed houses after Hurricane Matthew passes Jeremie, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A flooded river is seen after Hurricane Matthew passes Jeremie, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
People walk down the street next to destroyed houses and fallen trees after Hurricane Matthew passes Jeremie, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
A worker removes branches from the ground at the airport after Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A man works with damaged property in the Carbonera community of Guantanamo, Cuba following Hurricane Matthew, October 5, 2016. The storm slammed into Haiti and Cuba as a Category Four hurricane on October 4, 2016 but has since been downgraded to three, on a scale of five, by the US National Hurricane Center (NHC). Its winds were howling at 115 miles per hour (185 kilometers per hour). / AFP / YAMIL LAGE (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
Children are seen before damaged property in the Carbonera community of Guantanamo, Cuba following Hurricane Matthew, October 5, 2016. The storm slammed into Haiti and Cuba as a Category Four hurricane on October 4, 2016 but has since been downgraded to three, on a scale of five, by the US National Hurricane Center (NHC). Its winds were howling at 115 miles per hour (185 kilometers per hour). / AFP / YAMIL LAGE (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
A man is carried across the river La Digue in Petit Goave where the bridge collapsed during the rains of the Hurricane Matthew, southwest of Port-au-Prince, October 5, 2016. Haiti and the eastern tip of Cuba -- blasted by Matthew on October 4, 2016 -- began the messy and probably grim task of assessing the storm's toll. Matthew hit them as a Category Four hurricane but has since been downgraded to three, on a scale of five, by the US National Hurricane Center. / AFP / HECTOR RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
A boat is seen inside a destroyed house next to the sea after Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
Part of a boat is seen on a street next to the sea after Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
Residents walk on a street after Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A man clears debris after Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A man cleans out the water from his flooded house after Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
Women sit at the entrance of a house damaged by Hurricane Matthew in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
A man walks in a flooded street, in a neighbourhood of the commune of Cite Soleil, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on October 4, 2016. Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, triggering floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of a storm that has already claimed three lives in the poorest country in the Americas. / AFP / HECTOR RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
Residents observe an overflowing Guaso river in the Guantanamo province, on October 4, 2016. The most menacing storm in the Caribbean in nearly a decade, Matthew began battering Haiti late Monday with strong winds and rising sea levels, before barreling ashore some 250 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince. / AFP / YAMIL LAGE (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
Picture taken on October 5, 2016 showing the state in which a road between Guantanamo and Baracoa was left after the passage of Hurricane Matthew through the eastern tip of Cuba on Tuesday afternoon. Hurricane Matthew, the Caribbean's worst storm in nearly a decade, barreled towards the Bahamas Wednesday morning after killing nine people and pummeling Haiti and Cuba. / AFP / Yamil LAGE (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
A relative of two siblings who died when a landslide knocked the walls of their house down during the passage of Hurricane Matthew, sits in the window of a house in the neighbourhood of Capotillo, in Santo Domingo on October 4, 2016. Matthew, a Category Four hurricane, slammed into the Dominican Republic and Haiti Tuesday, triggering major floods and forcing thousands to flee the path of the storm that has claimed at least three lives in each country. / AFP / afp / Erika SANTELICES (Photo credit should read ERIKA SANTELICES/AFP/Getty Images)
A child stands on a street, after Hurricane Matthew passes Cite-Soleil in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
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That's in no small part because weather and emergency officials can get people out of the worst flood zones in time.

The statistics tell why it's so important to get people out. Storm surges and flooding are unpredictable and they can move fast.

Related: Florida Residents Evacuate Ahead of Mathew

"At least 1,500 persons lost their lives during Katrina and many of those deaths occurred directly, or indirectly, as a result of storm surge," the National Hurricane Center says on its website.

Flash floods are a threat to those out and about on foot and in cars. Even six inches of fast-moving water can pull a person down if they're wading in it, and cars can be pulled into rivers or streams.

But many deaths that follow a big storm in the U.S. come in the days and weeks afterward — especially if there are power outages.

Carbon monoxide poisoning often leads the list, as people turn to grills and gas stoves.

Related: Silent Killer Claims More Victims

The gas is odorless and invisible, so people can be poisoned with no warning. Symptoms of poisoning include nausea, headaches, dizziness and vomiting.

"About 70 people die every year and many more are injured from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by portable generators," the Consumer Product Safety Commission warns.

"Carbon monoxide (CO) from a generator used indoors can kill you and your family in minutes."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises people to keep generators at least 20 feet away from homes — and that includes keeping them away from open windows, too. Carbon monoxide alarms can warn that the gas is around.

"Don't run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open. Don't heat your house with a gas oven," CDC cautions.

In 2008, Hurricane Ike hit the Texas coast near Galveston, killing 74 people in Texas and Louisiana. The largest percentage were people who died from carbon monoxide poisoning after the storm had passed and left 2.3 million people without power — 13 people died this way, state health offiicials reported. Eight people drowned and 12 died of heart attacks, strokes and other heart-related causes.

Anthony Arguez and James Elsner of Florida State University found that, even though more people live along the coasts than 100 years ago, they are far less likely to die in hurricanes than in the days before highways and warning systems made it easy to escape the most dangerous areas.

While people may worry about infectious diseases after hurricanes cause floods, they haven't historically been a major cause of death or illness. Health officials also issue detailed warnings about food poisoning — a danger when power outages knock out refrigerators. But statistics don't indicate many deaths from food-borne illness after U.S. hurricanes.

Lack of medical care is another danger. Many hospitals along Florida's coasts shut down ahead of Matthew.

If flooding takes out roads, patients who need regular medical care, such as kidney dialysis, chemotherapy or those who suffer an emergency such as a heart attack may not get the treatment they need.

People may not be able to get prescription drugs, either.

Florida has the unique issue of Zika virus, also. Experts say severe flooding and heavy rains can wash away both mosquitoes and their eggs, giving a respite for a while.

But if there's extra standing water in the weeks afterwards, that provides a breeding grounds not only for the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that spread Zika, but also for the various other species that spread West Nile virus.

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