The blistering heat wave battering the Pacific Northwest this week has already killed around a dozen people in the U.S. and sent more than 1,000 people to local medical facilities.
The Oregon Health Authority said in a Tuesday release that beginning on June 25, Portland Metro area hospitals recorded 506 heat-related emergency and urgent care visits, with 251 visits due to heat on Monday alone.
Additionally, Oregon Health Authority spokesperson Delia Hernández said that 128 people visited state hospitals for heat-related illnesses on Sunday, when record-breaking temperatures reached their peak.
Comparatively, there were 24 heat-related hospital visits on Friday and 56 on Saturday.
“The extreme temperatures we have experienced over four successive days can lead to serious health complications, and we are now seeing the resulting demand for emergency services provided by our hospitals,” Dr. Dana Hargunani, chief medical officer for OHA, said in the news bulletin. “Right now we are asking the public to treat potential heat-related illnesses as serious, but work with healthcare providers in non-emergency settings when appropriate who can address these conditions to ensure capacity remains available for regional ED services.”
“The sharp increase in heat-related illness visits is quite concerning,” Richard Leman, a public health expert with the Oregon Health Authority, said. “Temperatures that get above 100 can be extremely dangerous if we don’t take care of ourselves.”
According to KPTV, hospital beds are in “critically short supply” and an Oregon Health & Science University associate professor said the university’s hospitals are having to turn away patients in order to focus on more “complex” cases.
In the neighboring Washington state, hospitals recorded 676 emergency department visits for suspected heat-related illness since Friday, according to a BuzzFeed report citing a Washington Department of Health spokesperson. Eighty-one of those visits reportedly led to inpatient admission.
Fox News has reached out to the agency for further verification but did not immediately receive a response.
Before the heat wave reached the area, hospitals were already preparing for a surge of patients, according to the Washington State Hospital Association.
“While the highest temperatures have passed, the impact will be felt by area hospitals for several days to come,” a spokesperson for the group told Fox News in a statement. “We encourage people to continue to seek routine care and alert their care providers to any new or worsening symptoms to avoid becoming an emergency patient.”
Seattle’s King County Medical Examiner’s office said two people died due to hyperthermia – a 65-year-old Seattle woman and a 68-year-old Enumclaw woman – and the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office on Tuesday told the Daily Herald that three men died after experiencing heat stroke in their homes.
Officials in Bremerton, said heat may have contributed to four deaths, but the city’s medical officer told the Kitsap Sun that firefighters cannot say definitively whether the heat was the cause of death.
In addition, the heat may have claimed the life of a nursery worker in St. Paul, Oregon, OSHA said on Tuesday.
In Bend, Oregon, authorities said the deaths of two homeless people may have also been weather-related.
The oppressive heat wave was caused by a dome of high pressure over the region, exacerbated by the effects of climate change.
Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that excessive heat is responsible for the most weather-related fatalities in the U.S. during an average year.
According to the agency, extreme heat killed an average of 138 Americans per year from 1990 to 2019.
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