(HealthDay News) – Heat-related deaths are preventable and heat response plans focusing on identifying and limiting heat exposure among vulnerable populations should be in place before an extreme heat event, according to research published in the June 7 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report.

David R. Fowler, MD, from the Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore, and colleagues report on 32 heat-related deaths in Maryland, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia that occurred during the two weeks following intense thunderstorms on June 29, 2012, and the subsequent power outages. Information was collected from the state offices of the medical examiner or vital statistics.

The researchers found that, from June 30–July 13, 2012, a total of 32 deaths (0.11 deaths per 100,000 population) from excessive heat exposure were reported, including 12 in Maryland, 12 in Virginia, seven in Ohio, and one in West Virginia. During the same two-week summer period each year of 1999–2009, a median of four and an average of eight (range, 1–29) heat-related deaths occurred in the four states. The median age of the 32 who died was 65 years. Most (72%) were male and most (75%) were unmarried or living alone. Twenty-two (69%) died at home. Cardiovascular disease (in 14 decedents) and chronic respiratory disease (in four decedents) may have contributed to the deaths, as did loss of power in ≥7 (22%) of the deaths.

“Heat-related deaths are preventable, and heat response plans should be in place before an extreme heat event,” the authors write.

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