PHOENIX — The excessive heat wave in Arizona has turned deadly as officials investigate 10 potential heat-related deaths in just the past seven days.
Maricopa County officials say of those 10, one has been confirmed as a heat-related death. However, officials say they cannot release more information as to what led to the deaths until a medical examiner's report is completed.
The Maricopa County Department of Public Health has a collaboration with the Office of Medical Examiner to release weekly reports of heat-deaths.
As of June 12, officials confirmed 3 heat-related deaths in the county so far in 2021, and a total of 20 deaths that are being investigated for possible heat-related causes.
The first heat-related death confirmed in 2021 happened in April. A Maricopa County Department of Public Health representative said earlier this month that the man was found dead inside his home during a welfare check on May 13.
County officials say the death came as the department released its 2020 heat report which noted a record high of 323 heat-related deaths in 2020.
At the end of last week, Maricopa County saw the highest number of hospital visits in one day because of heat-related illnesses, according to weekly data released by county officials.
An Excessive Heat Warning was extended and will be in effect until Sunday, June 20, until 8 p.m.
Although the majority of heat-related deaths happen in July and August, officials say they can happen as early as April and as late as October each year.
Dr. Frank LoVecchio, an emergency room physician in Phoenix, said he has treated a handful of patients during his shifts with heat-related illnesses.
"The people that we see in the emergency department that are potentially going to die are those who fall on the pavement, get burns, or those people who develop heatstroke,” he added.
LeVocchio said heatstroke can happen pretty quickly, especially if a person is on medications.
You can track Maricopa County's heat-related deaths here.
Maricopa County offers the following tips to prevent heat-related illness:
- Drink water before you get thirsty to prevent dehydration
- Don’t rely on fans as your primary source of cooling once the temperature gets higher than 90 degrees, they don't work anymore
- Come indoors frequently to an air-conditioned location to cool your core body temperature
- Wear lightweight clothes
- Never leave kids, pets, and others who may rely on you inside of a parked car
- Check on friends and neighbors, especially the elderly, to make sure their A/C is functioning and turned on and that they are feeling OK
- 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