Dozens dead, hundreds hospitalized amid heat wave

Dozens dead, hundreds hospitalized amid heat wave
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The historic heat wave lingering over the Pacific Northwest since Friday has led to dozens of deaths and hundreds of hospitalizations in both the U.S. and Canada.

Excessive heat warnings are still in effect for eastern Washington and Oregon, along with portions of northern and western Ohio, according to the National Weather Service.

At least 45 people have died in Portland, Ore., alone, a local medical examiner said Wednesday.

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"This was a true health crisis that has underscored how deadly an extreme heat wave can be," Jennifer Vines, health officer for Multnomah County, which includes Portland, told The Wall Street Journal. "As our summers continue to get warmer, I suspect we will face this kind of event again."

Portland hit a record 116 degrees on Monday after setting record high temperatures three days in a row, according to CNN. Seattle hit 108 degrees that day, and at least two other locations in Washington reached a record 118 degrees.

Oregon State Police told The Hill in a statement on Wednesday that the state medical examiner’s office has received reports of at least 63 deaths that “preliminary investigation suggests may be associated with the Pacific Northwest heatwave.”  

On Tuesday, the Oregon Health Authority said Portland-area hospitals have recorded 506 heat-related emergency and urgent care visits. On Monday alone, hospitals reported 251 heat-related visits.

The agency said the number is preliminary, as final causes of death have yet to be determined. Investigations are still underway.

In Washington, authorities are looking into seven potential deaths associated with heat-related illness that were reported between Saturday and Tuesday, the Washington State Department of Health told The Hill in a statement. The department is still waiting for death certificates for final confirmation. 

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Meanwhile, there have been 1,648 emergency department visits reported by hospitals for suspected heat-related illnesses in Washington, the department said. Of these visits, 358 have led to an inpatient admission. 

The highest volume of visits occurred on June 28, with 698 emergency department visits alone. 

The agency said the top diagnoses for these patients were heat exhaustion, dehydration, effect of heat and light, dizziness, and syncope and collapse.

In King County, Wash., officials said two people have died of hyperthermia, according to The Associated Press.

The heat may have contributed to four other deaths in Bremerton, Wash., the AP reported.

In Canada, the city of Lytton in British Columbia (B.C.) reached 121.1 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday, according to News 1130, setting a new record for the hottest temperature recorded in all of Canada for the third day in a row.

Lisa Lapointe, British Columbia’s chief coroner, said in a statement that since the onset of the heat wave last week, the B.C. Coroners Service has experienced a “significant increase in deaths” in which the extreme heat is suspected to be “contributory.”

“The Coroners Service would normally receive approximately 130 reports of death over a four-day period,” Lapointe said. Between Friday and Monday afternoon, “at least 233 deaths were reported. This number will increase as data continues to be updated.”