News August 2003

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100 confirmed to have died due to heat stroke in recent heat wave

The total number of deaths in Spain due to the terrible heat wave of the first half of August is now reported to have been 100. This is far less than the numbers reported in France(11.435) or Portugal (1,500).

The reason for the astounding difference in death tolls in France as against Spain is that while in Spain the heat was even more intense than in France, the temperatures were not much worse than usual and thus society and especially the health services are prepared for it. The whole way of life in summer adapts to take into account that temperatures will stay above blood temperature for long periods. The Siesta, while not part of year-round life for most, is an essential survival mechanism in a heat wave.Knowing that summer is not a one week wonder also means that younger people are less likely to sun bathe in the worst of the heat, but at least seek the shade of a tree. Hospitals and old peoples' homes are air conditioned - which brings other dangers like legionaire's disease, but saves lives in heat.

Source: EP