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Five cold-related deaths reported in Md.

Cold temperatures were a factor in five deaths across Maryland this month, and health officials are urging the elderly and other vulnerable populations to be wary of hypothermia and other cold-related illnesses this winter.

The victims included three people aged 65 or older in Wicomico, Prince George's and Carroll counties, and two men aged 18-44 in Frederick and Anne Arundel counties, according to the state health department. Health officials do not release further details on cases, citing privacy concerns.

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In general, health officials report cold-related illnesses and deaths including hypothermia and frostbite as well as injuries related to home heating, including carbon monoxide poisoning and burns.

"Cold-related deaths are tragic, but preventable," Dr. Laura Herrera Scott, state deputy secretary for public health services, said in a statement. "Especially at risk are the elderly, the homeless population and those who use drugs or alcohol."

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Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature falls below 95 degrees. Frostbite occurs when skin temperature falls below 32 degrees, freezing and destroying the tissue.

The health department urges residents to wear proper winter clothing, including hats, mittens and scarves, and to safely use stoves, generators and fireplaces to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

sdance@baltsun.com

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