Two dead due to heat-related issues, province says

Two people died on the weekend from causes related to Southern Manitoba's recent heat wave. The chief medical examiner is investigating.

The deaths occurred over the weekend, the chief medical examiner is investigating

Monday's humidity is expected to make it feel like 38 C in parts of Manitoba. (Bert Savard/CBC)

Two people died on the weekend from causes related to Southern Manitoba's recent heat wave. 

The deaths were confirmed Monday by Dr. Denise Koh, the emergency preparedness and response medical officer of health for the province. 

The province is working with the chief medical examiner to confirm the causes of death, and to confirm any drug use, a provincial spokesperson said in an email. 

The victims' ages and places of residence are not known at this time. 

"Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living is aware of two deaths over the weekend related to hyperthermia an abnormally high body temperature caused by a failure of the heat-regulating systems of the body to deal with the heat load from a combination of metabolic heat, environmental factors, and clothing requirements," the provincial spokesperson wrote in an email.

Environment Canada issued an extreme heat warning Monday for most of Southern Manitoba. 

The warnings are typically issued when two or more consecutive days of daytime maximum temperatures are expected to reach 32 C or warmer and nighttime minimum temperatures are expected to stay at or above 16 C.

"Manitobans are reminded to be diligent during extreme heat. Be aware of the temperature and be prepared, stay hydrated, stay cool and keep out of the sun," the provincial spokesperson wrote.

Humidex values will reach 38 in parts of southern Manitoba Monday, Environment Canada meteorologists warned, but the values are expected to drop overnight after a cold front tracks through the area.

Heat warnings over most of Southern Manitoba

Environment Canada issued warnings stretching from the U.S. border near Morden all the way up to the Rural Municipality of Alexander and Nopiming Provincial Park along the Manitoba-Ontario border. It also included the City of Winnipeg.

Koh is advising Manitobans to be cautious, and make sure that they're ready to beat the heat when they step outside.

"It's important to know the forecast and prepare, that would mean wearing light coloured clothing, sunscreen as well as a wide-brimmed hat," Koh said.

"It does effect everyone, but there's certain people that are in a more vulnerable or higher risk group," Koh said.

Areas in red are under a heat warning from Environment Canada. (Environment Canada)

Checking on vulnerable people

The City of Winnipeg advises people to check in on people who are vulnerable to the heat, particularly those who are socially isolated, such as the elderly and homeless.

Seniors face multiple barriers to escaping the heat, said Serena Bittner, a volunteer with Age and Opportunity and  the Transcona Council for Seniors. Bittner frequently visits elderly residents during periods of extreme heat.

"A lot of seniors that I volunteer with or have worked with they have trouble getting around," she said." So just basic tasks, getting up going to get water, going to get different items, opening windows. They struggle with mobility."

Mobility challenges can also make it difficult for seniors to get out of the house and go somewhere with air conditioning.

When seniors are living by themselves, they may not notice the effects that the heat is having on them, and they may not think to get water or food for themselves, said Bittner.

"When I'm volunteering I never tell people to change, but I try and lead by example," she said. "So I carry around my water all the time. I always ask people how they're doing or if they're thirsty. You can tell when people are getting thirsty or when people are not feeling good."

Main Street Project also has made additional resources available to help homeless people deal with the heat. 

"Main Street Project is very aware that people who are experiencing homelessness tend to very vulnerable to heat-related illness, because they're outside for very long periods of time," said spokesperson Cindy Titus. 

The emergency shelter has added an additional water fountain and mats so people can sleep during the heat of the day.  A temporary cooling station outside the Martha Street building offers bottled water and a hose to cool off.

People who want to donate supplies can drop off bottled water, hats, sunscreen, T-shirts and shorts. 

"Most importantly, if you see someone on the streets who seems to be suffering from some sort of heat-related distress, definitely call 9-1-1 as soon as you can. It's very important to make that call to make sure that person gets the help they need," said Titus.

What to watch for

Extreme heat affects everyone. The risks are greater for young children, pregnant women, older adults, people with chronic illnesses and people working or exercising outdoors.

Watch for the effects of heat illness: swelling, rash, cramps, fainting, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and the worsening of some health conditions.

Drink plenty of water even before you feel thirsty and stay in a cool place.

Check on older family, friends and neighbours. Make sure they are cool and drinking water

Reduce your heat risk. Schedule outdoor activities during the coolest parts of the day.

Never leave people or pets inside a parked vehicle.

Keep your house cool. Block the sun by closing curtains or blinds.

The City of Winnipeg said people can visit leisure centres, libraries, pools and spray pads during regular hours. They also advise that cooling appliances like portable air conditioners should be plugged directly into an outlet, not an extension cord, and to avoid overloading electrical circuts, which can create a fire hazard. 

With files from Laurie Hoogstraten


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