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Heat-Related Deaths

Posted Oct 23 2008 1:36pm
I have been getting calls from local newspapers asking for information about heat-related deaths. We, like so many others are in the midst of a nasty heatwave (it sounds sexier in song than when I am sweating in it). The media folks seem somewhat disappointed when I can’t give them a number.

Heat-related deaths are, for the most part, a pretty subjective call. Most heat-related deaths are accelerations of naturally occurring disease processes, so do you call them heat-related or not? Did the 70 year old gentleman die of a “natural” myocardial infarction (heart attack), likely to have occurred no matter what the weather, or was the “push” the 95 degree heat with oppressive humidity poorly excluded from his home by his several room fans?

Other than true cases of Heat Stroke (elevated core body temperature with physiologic loss of ability to sweat) it is really very difficult to count with certainty the number of “heat-related deaths”. We have not seen any Heat Stroke deaths, the others based on circumstances surrounding their deaths, maybe so.
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