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CDC reports record number of ER visits during Pacific Northwest heat wave

The recent heat wave in the Pacific Northwest led to a number of ER visits for heat-related illness, the CDC reports. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI
The recent heat wave in the Pacific Northwest led to a number of ER visits for heat-related illness, the CDC reports. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

July 16 (UPI) -- More than 3,500 people required emergency-room treatment for heat-related illness in the Pacific Northwest during the wave of high temperatures in May and June, according to a report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nearly 80% of these visits to the emergency room occurred between June 25 and 30, when most of Oregon and Washington were under an excessive heat warning, the data showed.

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On one day alone, June 28, nearly 1,100 people visited hospital ERs in the region due to heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion and dehydration, the agency said.

Although the region, which includes Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington has just 4% of the total population of the United States, it accounted for approximately 15% of the nation's heat-related illness ER visits in June, it said.

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"The June 2021 northwestern heat wave had a sizeable public health impact," the CDC researchers wrote.

"Health departments can develop and implement heat response plans, identify at-risk neighborhoods and populations, open cooling centers and use data to guide public health policy and action to protect their communities from heat-related illness and death," they said.

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Between June 25 and 30, much of Oregon and Washington were under an excessive heat warning, according to the National Weather Service.

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The record-breaking heat had the largest impact in Oregon and Washington, particularly in and around Portland, where temperatures reached 116 degrees Fahrenheit, or 42 degrees hotter than the average daily high June temperature, the agency said.

The number of heat-related illness ER visits in the region for the month of June was more than seven times higher than that of the same month in 2019, when no heat advisory was in effect, according to the CDC.

The visits recorded between June 25 and 30 were 69 times higher than that reported during the same six-day period in 2019, the data showed.

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"Record high temperatures are occurring more frequently in the United States, and climate change is causing heat waves to become more intense, directly impacting human health, including heat-related illnesses and deaths," the CDC researchers wrote.

"On average, approximately 700 heat-related deaths occur in the United States each year [and] environmental emergencies necessitate timely mechanisms for tracking health information," they said.

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