MARICOPA COUNTY, AZ (3TV/CBS5) -- The Maricopa County Department of Public Health has announced the first heat deaths of 2020.

The department confirms that so far this year, three people have died from heat-related illnesses. One victim was a man in his 80s. A second victim was a man in his 60s. And an additional person who died in Maricopa County from a heat-related illness is a resident of a neighboring county. 

“Even though much of our emphasis has been on slowing the spread of COVID-19, it is important that we remember to also take the precautions necessary to stay safe in our summer heat," said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director for Disease Control at Maricopa County Department of Public Health. “This includes staying hydrated, taking frequent breaks from the heat and checking on neighbors.”

While many heat-associated deaths occur outside, one out of four heat-related deaths in Maricopa County occurred indoors last year. The majority of those, more than 90% of them, had an air conditioning unit, and of those, 95% either didn’t have their air conditioning turned on or it didn’t function.

Anyone in need of help and heat relief during these extreme temperatures can find a list of hydration and cooling centers at heataz.com and caloraz.com.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more people die in the U.S. from heat than all other natural disasters combined. Last year, 197 heat-associated deaths occurred in Maricopa County due to exposure to environmental heat. It was the highest number of heat-associated deaths on record for Maricopa County and was the fourth year in a row of record-setting heat deaths counted in Maricopa County.

Heat-related deaths

People suffer heat-associated illness when their bodies can't compensate and properly cool themselves.

People suffer heat-associated illness when their bodies can't compensate and properly cool themselves.

Common-sense practices that can help keep everyone safe and healthy during the hot summer months include:

  • Drink water before you get thirsty to prevent dehydration
  • Don’t rely on fans as your primary source of cooling
  • Come indoors frequently to an air-conditioned location to cool your core body temperature
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen, and lightweight clothes
  • Never leave kids, older adults, pets, and others who may rely on you inside of a parked car
  • Check on friends and neighbors, especially the elderly, to ensure sufficient cooling and supplies
  • Seek medical care immediately if you have, or someone you know has, symptoms of heat-associated illness like muscle cramps, headaches, vomiting, confusion, no longer sweating, and rapid heart rate

A person is included in MCDPH’s heat-related death data only after the Maricopa County Medical Examiner confirms heat as the cause of death on a death certificate. Prior to confirmation, potential cases are listed on Public Health’s website as “under investigation.”

For heat relief resources, statistics, and information on how heat affects vulnerable populations, please visit heataz.com.

 

Copyright 2020 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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