Heat wave stress contributes to 18 deaths - FOX 32 News Chicago

Heat wave stress contributes to 18 deaths

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The deaths of eight more people in Cook County have been attributed to record temperatures, bringing the total to 18.

Thursday night, in the middle of Chicago's heat wave, the body of a 91-year-old woman was taken from her apartment on the northwest side. The cause of death? Heart disease, with diabetes and heat stress as contributing factors.

Her death is typical of the 18 deaths now linked to the heat wave. Eight more were added today. Only a handful on the medical examiner's daily ledgers list heat stroke as the primary cause. That would require evidence that the victim had a temperature of 106 degrees before dying.

Instead, almost all of the heat-related deaths in recent days listed heart disease as the killer, with factors like diabetes, obesity..and heat as contributing factors.

So just how does heat get added as a factor?

Former Cook County Medical Examiner Edmund Donoghue, who handled the 1995 heat wave, told me that calling a death "heat-related" depends almost entirely on investigators at the scene finding that the victim was exposed to extreme heat. Otherwise, heat would be missed as contributing factor.

"We ask them to pay more careful attention to the possibility of them being exposed to heat," Donoghue said by phone from his home in Georgia, where he now resides. "We want to know what the investigators out at the scene thought the ambient temperature was, and in many cases during that 1995 heat wave, the temperature in these places was 120 degrees."

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