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article imageUS heat wave deaths climb to 24, heat to intensify

By Lynn Herrmann     Jul 23, 2011 in Environment
Washington - A scorching heat wave in the US, anchored in the Midwest and spreading across the country to the Northeast, continues wreaking havoc on millions of Americans, and has been blamed for at least 24 deaths, including the latest, an 18-year-old landscaper.
On Friday, the National Weather Service noted the griping heat wave is expected to intensify across the eastern US, with Excessive Heat Warnings and/or Heat Advisories in effect for Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska eastward into Kentucky, Ohio and all along the eastern seaboard from Georgia to Maine.
Friday’s temperature in Newark, NJ reached 108 degrees, its highest-ever recorded temperature. New York City reached 104 degrees, just two degrees short of an all-time record high. Many northeastern cities topped the century mark, as well, including Providence, RI (100), Baltimore (105), Boston (103), Philadelphia (104, and Washington DC (105).
City pools in Philadelphia were operating on 45-minute time limits, allowing crowds all a chance to get wet. However, many New Yorkers were put out, and likely put off, with a multi-million gallon raw sewage spill originating form a wastewater treatment facility shut down beaches at Brooklyn and Staten Island. The plant had been disabled by a fire.
The death of an 18-year-old in Louisville, KY, identified and Cody Johns of Sellersburg, IN, is being blamed on heat and claims of a care center’s inability to offer timely assistance.
Johns died Thursday night after suffering heat stroke from working all day outdoors. His stepfather and a fellow co-worker took the young man to a Norton Care Center. Deputy Jefferson County Coroner Eddie Robinson interviewed the stepfather who claims the care center never treated the boy, according to The Courier-Journal.
Instead, a 911 call was placed by the stepfather and emergency crews arrived within 8 minutes at which time Johns was taken to a nearby hospital. Hospital staff measured his temperature at 110 degrees. He was treated for over an hour before he died.
Claims of Johns’ being denied treatment at the Norton care facility have been denied by Dr. Steve Hester, Norton Chief Medical Officer, stating Johns never entered the facility for a medical evaluation.
“It’s a tragic situation,” Hester said, the Courier-Journal reports. “We did not deny treatment to the patient.”
The mix-up, apparently a breakdown in communication, resulted when care center staff were not relayed the severity of the situation. “The urgency was not conveyed,” Hester continued. When informed the care center does not provide intravenous fluids, the stepfather turned and walked away.
“He left before we could fully respond,” Hester said. Only when local fire and EMS units arrived in the parking lot did the care center staff realize the patient was still on the premises.
Bill Smock, an emergency room physician at the local hospital, said it was disturbing the care center did not respond differently. “Certainly, he needed a hospital,” Smock said, the Courier-Journal noted. “But there is an ethical obligation to offer care. They're floor would have been cooler than the hot sidewalk. They could have poured water over him. You go to a medical facility expecting medical assistance.”
Across the country, the heat wave has seen a rise in emergency room visits, with people exhibiting symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Triple-digit temperatures have become a seemingly daily occurrence this summer, with 1,279 different locations either tying or setting daytime records this month, CBS News reports.
On Thursday, Oklahoma City recorded its 29th day of 100-degree or higher temperatures this year. In San Antonio, TX, residents and tourists alike will face triple digit temperatures this week-end, with a high on Sunday expected to reach 102 degrees.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports, as of Friday, the current heat wave is impacting around 132 million people due to the Excessive Heat Warning/Watch or Heat Advisory.
Jack Hays, director of NOAA’s National Weather Service, said: “This heat is dangerous on many levels. Temperatures and humidity levels are high, the heat will be prolonged, and very warm temperatures overnight won’t provide any respite. All of these factors make this an unhealthy situation.”
Health officials recommend wearing loose-fitting and lightweight clothing, drinking plenty of fluids, and avoiding the heat of the day whenever possible.
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