State health officials: 21 confirmed or possible heat-related deaths

WISCONSIN -- State health officials announced Tuesday, July 17th there are now 21 confirmed and possible heat-related deaths in the state. There are eight confirmed heat-related fatalities, and 13 possible heat-related fatalities. This, as a heat advisory continued into its second day, and Milwaukee broke a record temperature of 98° set back in 1942, with a reading of 100° at Mitchell International Airport.

Of the confirmed heat-related deaths, two occurred in La Crosse County and two in Barron County. The others occurred in Juneau, Richland, Rock and Vernon counties.

There are six possible heat-related deaths in Milwaukee County, and one in Waukesha County. There are two in Waukesha County, and the others are in Columbia, Dane, Rock, Winnebago and Menominee counties.

These deaths have occurred in the state since July 1st. Since the beginning of the month, southeast Wisconsin has seen two heat waves prompting two heat advisories, and physicians say they've seen an impact, from the doctor's office to the emergency room.

Jonteya Watson visited the doctor Tuesday, July 17th for a regularly scheduled doctor's appointment, but she wasn't feeling well. She said she had no idea she was dehydrated.

"I'm always outside because my kids play outside all the time, and my doctor sent me from my doctor's office to the hospital because he wasn't able to draw blood from me because I was too dehydrated," Watson said.

At Wheaton-Franciscan St. Joseph's Hospital, doctors say they've seen a variety of patients complaining of ill-effects of the heat over the past few weeks.

"Mainly what we've seen over the last couple of weeks is a lot of heat-related illnesses -- dehydration, heat exhaustion, a couple cases of heat stroke as well," Dr. Christopher Asandra said.

With 21 confirmed or possible heat-related deaths in the state since the beginning of the month, health officials say they're worried the trend will continue.

"We're expecting heat indices to reach 108° to 110°, which makes it very dangerous if you`re spending any amount of time outdoors," Paul Biedrzycki with the Milwaukee Health Department said.

Biedrzycki says many of those who have died as a result of the extreme heat have shared circumstances -- many were socially isolated or living alone, some had no air conditioning and some were on medications that make them more vulnerable to heat-related illnesses.

Health officials say it is important to stay hydrated, and stay indoors if you can, because complications due to the heat can sneak up on you before you realize it.

"I`m outside, constantly running after my kids and constantly playing. We go down to the lake. I thought I was drinking enough bottled water, but I guess not," Watson said.

CLICK HERE for heat resources via the state Department of Health website.

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