Heat wave drives hundreds to local hospitals

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Heat wave drives hundreds to local hospitals

As an August heat wave burns on, 520 people got sick last week, a record number of patients suffering from heat-related illnesses.

According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 520 people sought medical help from Aug. 7 to Saturday for heatstroke, heat exhaustion (including dehydration), heat cramps and heat syncope, or fainting.

This is the highest number of heat-related illness patients per week since 2011, when the CDC began to keep records on it.

In Seoul alone, the daytime temperature exceeded 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) for five days last week.

The weekly number of patients suffering from heatstroke and related illnesses did not top 400 in any given week: last year, the highest number of patients suffering from heat illnesses in a week was 315. The figure was 123 in 2014, 328 in 2013, 319 in 2012 and 126 in 2011.

From May 23 to Aug. 13, 1,623 people have fallen ill due to the intense heat, 13 of whom died, according to the CDC.

This is also the highest number of people to get sick from the heat during a summer in recent years, and roughly 1.5 times the number last summer, when 1,056 people got sick from the heat.

Among the 1,623 patients this summer, some half of them, or 833 people, suffered from heat exhaustion, 375 from heatstroke, 216 from heat cramps and 126 from heat syncope, or fainting from physical exertion in the hot weather, a milder form of heatstroke.

More than 7 out of 10 cases this summer took place between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., according to the CDC. Some 79.1 percent of the patients said they suffered from heat illness while being outdoors for their work, such as farming.

People over the age of 65 were most affected by the heat: 26.5 percent of the patients were over 65, 22.4 percent were in their 50s and 17.5 percent were in their 40s.

According to the Korea Meteorological Administration, today’s highest temperature is expected to be 34 degrees Celsius.

The heat wave is expected to subside by the weekend. According to the national weather forecaster, sporadic showers will reach Jeju Island, areas in North and South Gyeongsang and southern regions of the country as well as some eastern coasts on Tuesday.

BY HWANG SOO-YEON, KANG CHAN-SU [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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