Deadly summer: 110 deaths, over 40,000 suspected heat strokes

Union health ministry issues advisory for state health departments on 'Heat Wave Season 2024'

According to the health ministry, the ongoing heatwave has claimed at least 110 lives
According to the health ministry, the ongoing heatwave has claimed at least 110 lives


On 20 June, the Union health ministry said the unrelenting heatwave sweeping large parts of the country has claimed at least 110 lives and left over 40,000 people grappling with suspected heat stroke between 1 March and 18 June this year. According to data, there were six deaths from heatstroke on 18 June alone.

Uttar Pradesh is the worst affected with a reported 36 deaths, followed by Bihar, Rajasthan and Odisha, according to data compiled under a national heat-related illness and death surveillance by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). "The data visible may not be final submission from states. So the numbers are expected to be higher than this," an official source said.

Swathes of northern and eastern India have been in the grip of a long heatwave, increasing heatstroke casualties and prompting the Centre to issue advisories to hospitals to set up special units for such patients.

Union health minister J.P. Nadda on 19 June directed that special heatwave units be set up in all Central government hospitals to cater to those falling ill from the heat. Nadda also asked officials to ensure all hospitals are prepared to provide the best healthcare to the affected as he reviewed the situation across the country and preparedness of hospitals to deal with it.

On the health minister's directions, the ministry has issued an advisory for state health departments titled 'Heat Wave Season 2024'.

"The country may observe above normal seasonal maximum temperatures in-line with the observed trend of summertime temperatures. To reduce health impacts of extreme heat, health departments must ensure preparedness and timely response," the ministry said.

The advisory asked state nodal officers under the National Programme for Climate Change and Human Health (NPCCHH) to start submitting daily data on heatstroke cases and deaths and total deaths from 1 March, besides reporting under heat-related illness and death surveillance.

It called for a maintenance of a digital list of heatstroke cases and deaths (suspected/confirmed) at the health facility/hospital level in the formats provided. The nodal officers have been asked to ensure dissemination of a national action plan on heat-related illnesses (HRI) to all districts and strengthening of health systems preparedness for HRI.

The directive also stressed on dissemination of early warning of heatwaves issued by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) and said forecast for the next four days should be disseminated to health facilities and vulnerable populations.

The advisory also directed for health facility preparedness for prevention and management of severe HRI and procurement and supply of adequate quantities of ORS packs, essential medicines, IV fluids, ice-packs, and equipments to support management of volume depletion and electrolyte imbalance etc.

It also called for ensuring the availability of sufficient drinking water at all health facilities, general cooling appliances in waiting and patient treatment area and their functioning and stressed that cases with suspected heatstroke should be rapidly assessed and actively cooled using standard treatment protocols.

"Coordinate with electricity distribution company/corporation for uninterrupted electricity supply to hospitals for constant functioning of cooling appliances. Adopt measures to reduce indoor heat and energy conservation in health facilities like cool roof/green roof, window shading, rainwater harvesting, solarization etc. Provide shade outside the health facilities in heat-prone regions," the advisory added.

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