Punishing heatwave: 110 deaths, over 40,000 cases of suspected heatstroke

While the union government has issued directives to states for preparedness at all healthcare facilities, it is harder to control public health arrangements outside

Heatwave units are to be set up at central government hospitals (photo: PTI)
Heatwave units are to be set up at central government hospitals (photo: PTI)


The unrelenting heatwave sweeping large parts of the country has claimed at least 110 lives and left over 40,000 people grappling with suspected heatstroke between 1 March and 18 June, health ministry sources said on Thursday, 20 June.

Uttar Pradesh is the worst affected, reporting 36 deaths, followed by Bihar, Rajasthan and Odisha, according to data compiled under the National Heat-Related Illness and Death Surveillance by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

"The data visible may not be the final submission from the states. So the actual numbers are expected to be higher than this," an official source said.

According to the data, on 18 June alone, there were six deaths due to heatstroke.

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

Union health minister J.P. Nadda on Wednesday, 19 June, directed that special heatwave units be set up in all central government hospitals.

An advisory on 'Heat Wave Season 2024' has been issued by the health ministry for state health departments as well.

'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 union ministry said in this advisory.

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 compile total deaths from 1 March, besides the usual reporting under the 'Heat-Related Illness and Death Surveillance' protocol.

The advisory to the states also called for maintenance of a digital line list of heatstroke cases and deaths (suspected/confirmed) at the health facility/hospital level.

States have also been asked to ensure dissemination of the National Action Plan on Heat Related Illnesses (HRI) to all districts and strengthen all health systems preparedness for HRI.

The advisory also stressed the importance of disseminating the India Meteorological Department (IMD) early warnings for heatwaves and four-day forecasts to health facilities and vulnerable populations.

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

It also called for ensuring availability of sufficient drinking water at all health facilities and general cooling appliances in waiting and patient treatment areas, stressing that cases of 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, solarisation, etc. Provide shade outside the health facilities in heat-prone regions,' the advisory added.

Edited agency inputs

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