4.6 The Effects of Extreme Heat on Human Health in North Carolina

Thursday, 12 June 2014: 9:15 AM
Church Ranch (Denver Marriott Westminster)
Christopher M. Fuhrmann, Southeast Regional Climate Center, Chapel Hill, NC; and M. Kovach and C. E. Konrad II

Extreme heat is the leading cause of weather-related mortality in the United States. As many as 700 people die each year as a direct result of the heat. Extreme heat also affects human health through heat stress and can exacerbate underlying medical conditions that lead to increased morbidity. In this study, we analyzed data on emergency department visits for heat-related illness and a variety of other health outcomes (e.g. respiratory and cardiovascular disease) during periods of extreme heat across North Carolina from 2008 to 2012. Periods of extreme heat were identified based on the issuance of heat products from local National Weather Service forecast offices (i.e. heat advisory, watch, and warning). Primary and secondary diagnoses made during periods of extreme heat were compared to several control periods (adjusting for day of week, seasonality, and population) to determine excess or deficit emergency department visits resulting from extreme heat. By analyzing both primary and secondary diagnoses, we can better elucidate the specific mechanisms and underlying (i.e. pre-existing) health conditions associated with exposure to extreme heat. Results are presented by age, gender, and National Weather Service region to determine the geographic distribution of vulnerable populations.
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