Over 400 more deaths due to heat wave

During last week’s heat wave, over 400 more people died than in the weeks before. The increase is almost entirely due to the heat, because relatively few people died from the coronavirus. A total of an estimated 3100 people died last week, according to Statistics Netherlands (CBS) on the basis of obituaries.

The higher mortality during the heat wave comes after thirteen weeks of relatively few deaths. Before that, mortality was higher than average for weeks as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The vast majority of the cases involved people aged 80 years and older. The figures are for week 33, from 10 to 16 August.

“The general practitioners saw a relatively large number of people that week with complaints related to the heat”, says CBS researcher Maarten Bloem in the CCeit Radio 1 News. “It’s, for example, dehydration or sunstroke.”

Comparison with last year

The number of more than 400 additional deaths corresponds to that caused by the heat wave in July last year. Yet comparison is difficult, says researcher Bloem. “This spring there was a major covid outbreak and last year we had no corona, but also no major flu epidemic.”

It could be that some people who are at high risk due to the heat have already died of the coronavirus this spring. “On the other hand, it is also possible that people with poor health, including coronavirus patients, had an additional risk of dying from the heat. It may be possible to find out later, but not now.”

There’s not always a link between heat waves and additional deaths. In 2018 the heat waves led to hardly any more deaths. One possible cause is that a relatively large number of people died in the winter before due to the cold and a flu epidemic.

Because it was still warm at the beginning of this week, the total extra mortality due to the heat may increase even further.