Maricopa County had a record number of heat-related deaths in 2021, report finds
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - According to the Maricopa County Department of Public Health (MCDPH), 2021 had more heat-related deaths than ever before. 339 people died in 2021 from heat-related causes--the highest number of heat-related deaths since when the recording began in 2006. “This tragic number of deaths shows us that heat continues to be a major issue affecting the health of Maricopa County residents,” said Dr. Nick Staab, a medical epidemiologist at MCDPH.
MCDPH reports that 75% of those deaths happened outdoors with 130 of them being among the homeless. And 25% of the deaths happened indoors, 86% of which had an air conditioner inside. However, over three-quarters of cases of those who died with an air conditioner present had a non-functional AC unit. Most of the deaths happened in June, July, and August but there were other deaths in April until late November.
86% of heat-associated deaths were residents of Maricopa County. “These data tell us that it’s not just visitors or newer residents who can be severely affected by our hot weather,” added Dr. Staab. “Even when we think we’ve gotten used to Arizona summers, we need to take precautions like staying hydrated and avoiding outdoor activity in the hottest part of the day.”
Some preventative steps you can take to protect yourself from heat-associated illness are the following:
- Drink water throughout the day to prevent dehydration
- Don’t rely on fans as your primary source of cooling, especially once the temperature reaches 90 degrees or higher.
- Come indoors frequently to an air-conditioned location to cool your core body temperature. If you do not have access to a cool indoor environment, you can find an Emergency Cooling Center near you at HeatAZ.org.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen, and lightweight clothes when outdoors.
- 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.
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