Friday, 24 January 2014

Death in a hot climate: Southern heatwave to take its toll

Heatwaves have been attributed to increasing the numbers of unexpected deaths as well as heat-related illness. The European heatwave of 2003 resulted in between 22,000 and 45,000 deaths in excess of those expected for that time of year. Similarly, in Victoria in 2009, there were 374 "extra deaths" beyond what would have been expected over the summer.

These deaths mostly occur in the elderly and very young age groups, as they are most vulnerable to heat related stress and have the most difficulty regulating their temperatures.
A/Prof David Ranson of the DFM, has editorialised on the dangers posed by the heatwaves, particularly the most recent heatwave to affect Southern Australia.
The deaths are difficult to attribute directly to the heatwave, as most often these deaths occur in people with preexisting diseases, and the number of deaths as a direct result of heat stroke are much lower.
Extreme temperatures are thought to increase the physiological stress on our bodies, and to those already under stress from chronic disease, it can lead to organ failure and death.

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