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CDC: Heat kills thousands more in US than previously estimated

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Death records show that hundreds of Americans die from heat each year, but a new investigation reveals it may actually be thousands.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated some 600 people lose their lives to extreme temperatures, but a new study suggests the real amount is more than 5,600.

Researchers used data from the National Center for Health Statistic on deaths in populous areas in the US from 1997 through 2006, along with a model that estimates temperatures in these regions.

The data shows moderate heat killed 3,309 people per year in the counties included in the study, and extreme heat killed 2,299 people each year.

However, as the coronavirus linger across the nation, experts fear these numbers will increase, as publicly accessible air conditioned spaces are now longer available.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated some 600 people lose their lives to extreme temperatures, but a new study suggests the real amount is more than 5,600

Forecasters have predicted a sizzling hot summer for the entire US, with many areas facing hotter-than-average temperatures.

The weather is likely to be hotter than usual and could start as early as June and run through August in most areas of the country.

The above-average hot weather may in part be as a result of cooling sea-surface temperatures that were detected in the Pacific Ocean which could see a possible La Niña later this year.

The phenomenon, although rare, is linked with floods and droughts, and often starts with some scorching summer weather.

Researchers used data from the National Center for Health Statistics on deaths in populous areas in the US from 1997 through 2006, along with a model that estimates temperatures in these regions

Researchers used data from the National Center for Health Statistics on deaths in populous areas in the US from 1997 through 2006, along with a model that estimates temperatures in these regions

The data shows moderate heat killed 3,309 people per year in the counties included in the study, and extreme heat killed 2,299 people each year

The data shows moderate heat killed 3,309 people per year in the counties included in the study, and extreme heat killed 2,299 people each year

Dr. Kate Weinberger, lead author and professor at the Boston University of Medicine, said: ‘How dangerous a hot day is may depend on where you live.’

‘A 90°F day might be dangerous in Seattle, but not in Phoenix.’

‘For example, air conditioning is much more common in cities like Phoenix that experience hot weather frequently versus cities like Seattle with cooler climates.’

She also noted that demographic factors play a role in how much heat a population is exposed to.

Weinberger and her team collected data from the National Center for Health Statistics on death records to pinpoint individuals who fell victim to excess heat.

This information was combined with Parameter-elevation Relationships on Independent Slopes Model (PRISM), which estimates temperatures across the contiguous U.S. down to the four-square-kilometer area.

The study also analyzed days separately – those considered moderately or extremely hot in a specific area, along with the number of deaths as a result.

Forecasters have predicted a sizzling hot summer for the entire US, with many areas facing hotter-than-average temperatures. The weather is likely to be hotter than usual and could start as early as June and run throughout August in most areas of the country

Forecasters have predicted a sizzling hot summer for the entire US, with many areas facing hotter-than-average temperatures. The weather is likely to be hotter than usual and could start as early as June and run throughout August in most areas of the country 

This is not the first time a study into how many Americans have died because heat has been conducted, but previous work only used death certificates to make an estimate.

Study senior author Dr. Gregory Wellenius, director of BUSPH’s Climate and Health program, said: ‘These estimates do not depend on anyone recognizing that a given death was due to excess heat, so they are likely closer to the true number than previous estimates,’ says study senior author Dr. Gregory Wellenius, director of BUSPH’s Climate and Health program.

‘Heat is very much a threat to the health of our communities and our families today,’ 

 ‘Public health officials have a responsibility to implement heat action plans—as many communities across the world already have—in order to warn residents ahead of days of extreme heat and to help residents cope with the heat and minimize their health risks.’

However, the team fears that the lingering coronavirus will make it harder for many people to stay cool this summer.

‘Providing publicly accessible air conditioned spaces on hot days now carries additional risks and requires new protocols for keeping people safe from both heat and infection,’ Wellenius explained.

‘At the same time, with many offices, malls, stores, restaurants and other commercial buildings still largely closed, this summer people are even more reliant on home air conditioning than ever before.’

‘Given the high unemployment rates, particularly among vulnerable communities, we may see an even bigger impact of heat on people’s health this summer.’

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