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Region records first heat-related death

The Baltimore Sun

With temperatures again prepared to break into the 90s this week in the Baltimore-Washington area, state health officials announced yesterday the region's first death related to heat.

A 77-year-old Prince George's County man died May 29 of heart disease complicated by hyperthermia, or uncontrollably high body temperatures, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The man was found unresponsive in his yard in outdoor temperatures exceeding 90 degrees, department spokesman John Hammond said. Hammond did not have any more details about the man.

Last year, 16 people died of heat-related causes in Baltimore, city health commissioner Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein said.

The Health Department has not been notified of any heat-related deaths in the city this year, but the potential should be as much of a concern this year as last year, Sharfstein said.

"I think the hot weather is starting sooner, and heat is absolutely deadly, particularly to people who are on the edge to begin with, and the consequences are worse earlier in the season," he said. "By the end of the season, the more vulnerable people get picked off by the heat first."

The weather in Baltimore should start heating up today, according to the National Weather Service. A high in the mid-90s is predicted for tomorrow, along with a hazardous weather outlook saying the heat could be harmful if precautions aren't taken.

This year, the city plans an increased response to heat stress by tracking heat-related 311 calls, shelter visits and people having trouble paying energy bills. On hazardous days, emergency teams will knock on doors in problem areas to check on residents, Sharfstein said.

When hazardous conditions are predicted, the city opens air-conditioned "cooling centers" in public buildings throughout the city, Sharfstein said. He also encouraged residents to look out for neighbors and others vulnerable to heat stress.

"Heat stress is in part a social problem, in that when people don't have access to cool air or friends to look in on them, there's a risk," Sharfstein said.

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