SEATTLE — At least 78 heat-related deaths have been confirmed by the Washington State Department of Health after the extreme heat wave that scorched the Pacific Northwest in late June.
The department said most of the deaths occurred in King and Pierce counties. King County has reported at least 15 confirmed deaths, according to information reported by its medical examiner’s office. The Pierce County medical examiner has confirmed 12 heat-related deaths.
The heat wave’s deadliest day was June 29, when it was to blame for 33 deaths, according to the state health department.
The statewide death count is considered preliminary. Local county coroners and medical examiners are still working through cases and some people who died during the heat wave might not have been discovered yet.
The state health department said it will take at least another month before a near-final count of deaths due to heat is available.
Even that count is unlikely to express the overall impact of this extreme heat event.
Heat is often a quiet killer that exacerbates underlying health conditions. Typically, only a small portion of those who die during heat waves perish due to hyperthermia, or when the body dangerously overheats.
Researchers will seek to calculate the number of excess deaths — deaths which wouldn’t have happened otherwise — by analyzing comprehensive death data and comparing the time period of heat event to similar stretches of time during previous years. That data will take months to collect and process.
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