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The heatwave sweeping across the Pacific Northwest is sending people to the hospital as temperatures rise into the triple digits.
In Multnomah County, Oregon, which includes Portland, there were 43 emergency department and urgent care clinic visits for heat illness, The Washington Post reported.
That’s almost half of the entire visits the county usually sees in an entire summer, spokeswoman Julie Sullivan-Springhetti told the Post.
“People’s bodies are stressed,” Dr. Jennifer Vines, the Multnomah County health officer told Oregon Public Broadcasting “My main message is to take this for the serious health threat that this is.”
Heat exhaustion can cause dizziness, fainting, nausea, vomiting, and a fast and weak pulse, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Portland like many other cities has broken multiple record temperatures over the past few days and on Monday even reached 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
Across the state around 200 people went to hospitals because of heat-related illness since Friday, data published by the Oregon Health Authority showed.
OPB reported that two people went missing while swimming in a river to avoid the heat on Saturday and officials in the city of Bend suspect that two homeless people may have died because of the heat, although their cause of death is still under investigation.
Rises in hospitalizations were also seen in King County, Washington, which includes Seattle. A spokesman for the county’s public health department told the Post there were 41 heat-related visits to emergency departments on Saturday alone. Previously the record daily high was nine heat-related hospitalizations.
Vines told OPB that the combination of high heat during the day and the fact that many cities are recording temperatures in the 90s even after the sun goes down, in addition to how early in the summer the heatwave came, all make it a health emergency.
For instance, the National Weather Service reported that in Portland, Oregon the daily high in June is 73 degrees. During this heatwave, temperatures are around 40 degrees higher.
“For such an early extreme heatwave, without that break at night, we knew that this was going to be life-threatening. That’s how we talked about it from the beginning,” Vines told OPB.
Complicating the high heat, many cities in the West also have the lowest rates of air conditioning in the country. In Seattle, for example, only 44% of homes have air conditioning.