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Back To Vidyya Heat-Related Illnesses, Deaths And Risk Factors

Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio, 1999, And United States, 19791997

Heat-related illness, injuries and deaths are preventable. High environmental temperatures, such as during heat waves, have been associated with increased mortality, but the effect of hot weather on human mortality is likely underestimated.

A new report from the CDC describes four instances of heat-related deaths that occurred in the cities of Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio during the 1999 summer heat wave, summarizes heat-related deaths in the United States during 1979-1997, and describes the risk factors associated with heat-related illness and death. Persons at increased risk for heat-related illness and death include infants, the elderly (>65 years), persons with impaired mobility, persons physically active in hot environments who fail to rest frequently or drink enough fluids, and persons using certain drugs or consuming excessive amounts of alcohol.

During 1979--1997, the most recent years for which data are available, an annual average of 371 deaths in the United States were attributable to "excessive heat exposure" (median: 249; range: 148 in 1979 to 1700 in 1980). This translates into a mean annual death rate of 1.5 per million and a median annual death rate of one per million.

Because of a record heat wave, the heat-related death rate for 1980 was more than three times higher than that for any other year during the 19-year period. The median annual death rate for hyperthermia in persons aged >65 years was three per million. During 1979--1997, 7046 deaths were attributable to excessive heat exposure: 3010 (43%) were "due to weather conditions," 351 (5%) to heat "of manmade origin," and 3683 (52%) "of unspecified origin." Of the 2954 persons whose deaths were caused by weather conditions and for whom age data were available, persons aged >65 years accounted for 1783 (44%) deaths, and persons aged <14 years accounted for 127 (4%) deaths. Except children aged <14 years, the average annual rate of heat-related deaths increased with each age group, particularly for persons aged >65 years.

During 1979--1997, among persons of all ages, the annual death rate "due to weather conditions" was two times higher for men (0.8 per million) than for women (0.4 per million), and more than three times higher for blacks (1.6 per million) than for whites (0.5 per million). Arizona and Missouri (four per million) and Arkansas and Kansas (three per million) had the highest annual age-adjusted rates for heat-related deaths "due to weather conditions".

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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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