(Washington Insider Magazine) – An intense heat wave affecting the Northwest caused a spike in emergency department (ED) visits for heat-related illness, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Oregon and Washington were most affected by the record-breaking heat, the CDC wrote, with temperatures in Portland climbing to 116 degrees Fahrenheit, over 40 degrees hotter than average monthly highs. While the country sees some 700 deaths due to heat illness each year, the agency warned that climate change will spur increases in fatalities in the years to come in the northwestern U.S.
The report cited data from the National Syndromic Surveillance Program from May 1-June 30 in 2019 and 2021 on ED visits for heat-related illness in the northwestern U.S, including Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
Results noted 3,504 heat-related ED visits in the region from May to June 2021, about 79% of which occurred during June 25 to June 30 when much of Oregon and Washington had an excessive heat warning. A peak was noted on June 28 with 1,038 heat-related illness ED visits in a steep contrast to nine such visits on the same day in 2019.
Anyone can develop a heat-related illness, especially those who are not acclimated to high temperatures, Dr. Lane Tassin, FastMed’s chief medical officer, western region, previously told Fox News.
Men and older adults over 75 were most affected. While the region comprises 4% of the U.S. population, it bore about 15% of total heat-related illness ED visits across the country during June, the report reads.
Daily visits in June 2021 were seven times greater than June 2019, soaring to nearly 70 times higher during June 25–30, 2021 versus 2019 when there was no heat advisory. The results may reflect an underestimate because the report only included ED visits, and not treatment sought elsewhere.
“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 deaths, especially among disproportionately affected populations,” the agency wrote.