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Posted at 10:26 AM ET, 07/26/2010

Va. reports two more heat-related deaths

By Washington Post editors

Virginia is reporting that two more people have died from heat-related illnesses, bringing this year's hypothermia hyperthermia deaths to eight.

The most recent deaths occurred among adults from the central region of the state who were between the ages of 25 and 64. As of Monday, seven of Virginia's heat-related deaths have occurred in residents from the central part of the state; the remaining death was a resident from the southwest region.

Maryland has reported 16 heat-related deaths this year. The District says it has had one.

By Washington Post editors  | July 26, 2010; 10:26 AM ET
Categories:  DC, Maryland, Virginia  
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Just as in the MD. report, it is Hyperthermia. Hypo=low, Hyper=high.

Posted by: NursRob | July 26, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

A common journalistic and public health mistake during heat waves is to report only those deaths that the medical examiner certifies as directly caused by heat stroke (hyperthermia) rather than the total number actually caused by the heat wave. This under-reporting of the death toll, often by a huge margin, obscures the true magnitude of these natural disasters.

When a government agency reports that a certain number of people suffered "heat-related deaths", it is prudent to inquire as to the basis for the numbers. How were they derived? What causes of death were included in the calculations? The answer you receive will go a long way toward telling you whether you're dealing with fact or fiction. What you're looking for goes something like this: "That number is based upon 'excess deaths from all causes', not just on heat stroke deaths alone". Anything less is highly suspect, and is an excellent litmus test for whether your source has any idea what he or she is talking about.

Case In Point: Roughly 15,000 people died during the National Heat Wave of 1980, yet the official tally given at the end of the summer by government agencies, repeated by the media, was only one tenth of that - 1,500 deaths. The lower number (1,500) counted only those deaths for which medical examiners had issued death certificates listing heat stroke (hyperthermia) as the primary cause of death - a small fraction of the total heat wave mortality. The higher number (15,000) was based on "excess deaths from all causes": deaths above and beyond the number that normally occurred during a comparable summer period with no heat wave. The wisdom of using the latter method has been a matter of record for over 50 years.

Posted by: WMAvery | July 27, 2010 11:50 PM | Report abuse

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