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Five heat-related deaths reported, more expected in Maricopa County

(AP Photo/Matt York, File)

PHOENIX — Five people have died from the heat in Maricopa County so far this year, according to county health officials.

That number could increase given there are at least 10 deaths that are suspected to be caused by the heat and are under investigation.

“I can guarantee you that we will have more heat-related deaths,” said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, a medical director at the Maricopa County Department of Public Health.

These numbers come as the Phoenix-metro area faces an excessive-heat warning from the National Weather Service, which lasts until Thursday. Temperatures are expected to hit anywhere between 118 and 120 degrees early this week.

Sunenshine said it’s important for people to avoid being outside during the hottest parts of the day and to drink plenty of water.

She said it’s also important to check in on elderly neighbors and relatives to make sure their air conditioning is working properly and is on. She noted that for most of the heat-related deaths that occurred indoors, the air conditioning wasn’t on or working correctly.

“It’s also important to keep pets and children out of the heat,” she said. “They’re much more vulnerable to heat-related illness and death.”

Last year, there were 130 heat-related deaths in Maricopa County. That was the highest number since the county began tallying the number of heat-related deaths in 2006.

Sunenshine said it’s still too early to tell if the county will reach or surpass last year’s number.

She noted the first heat-related deaths confirmed this year “came earlier than we normally see them.” The first occurred in March and the second one in April.

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