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Ontario coroner investigating 3 potential heat-related deaths

Last Updated Jul 11, 2018 at 6:22 am EDT

A thermometre showing 40 C. GETTY IMAGES/artpartner-images

Ontario’s chief coroner says three recent deaths in the province may have been related to heat, compared to dozens already reported in Quebec.

Dr. Dirk Huyer told reporters on Tuesday that the three deaths were reported over the last four days.

Quebec health authorities have said that up to 70 people died from heat-related complications in a recent heat wave, including 34 in Montreal alone.

Huyer said the numbers are so different in part because Ontario performs autopsies before declaring a cause of death, and it can take months for those results to come in.

Ontario also defines heat-related deaths differently than Quebec _ it only counts a death as heat-related if the temperature is the direct or major cause, he said.

It can be “challenging” to determine if heat was the main cause of death, he said, noting there are other ways to gauge the scope of the issue, including heat-related emergency department visits.

“Deaths are really not a good measure in a real-time point of view to understand a health problem,” Huyer said.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, said heat-related data are collected in Ontario’s heat warning and information system report but that document does not collect statistics on deaths.

However, Williams said he will be consulting with public health officials on what the province should do to better to alert the public and help municipalities respond with more targeted programs.

Last week’s heat wave in Quebec and Ontario saw temperatures reach over 35 C, with humidex values in the mid-40s.

Quebec officials have said many of those who died were already suffering from chronic conditions that were worsened by the heat.

Montreal’s public health office said on Saturday that the majority of people who died in the city were over the age of 60.