Note from the Commissioner: Stay Alert with Extreme Summer Heat

Yesterday, we declared the first Code Red extreme heat alert this summer in Baltimore City. To protect our residents from adverse health effects from extreme heat, the city enacted a multi-agency response to provide heat safety education and cooling relief to vulnerable populations in Baltimore.

Excessive high temperatures are a silent killer and a public health threat, particularly for the young, the elderly and those in our city who are the most vulnerable. It is important for all residents to protect against hyperthermia and dehydration by staying cool and hydrated as the heat continues throughout this summer. 

We can prevent heat from killing our citizens. In addition to caring for yourself and your family, remain in contact with your neighbors, especially seniors and individuals with chronic diseases who live alone or without air conditioning.

Residents should drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol and caffeine; reduce outside activities and stay inside in air-conditioned locations; never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles; check on older, sick, or frail neighbors who may need help responding to the heat; and watch out for signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which include: confusion, hot, dry, flushed skin or cool and clammy skin, lightheadedness, and nausea.

As we prepare for rain, keep other public health concerns in mind, such as Zika, the virus transmitted through the infected bite of a mosquito or through unprotected sexand is linked to birth defects. While the city has a plan to combat mosquito-borne illnesses, all residents in Baltimore can help prevent the spread of Zika by cleaning out yards and properties to prevent standing water in flowerpots, cracks in sidewalks, trashcan lids—anything as small as the lid of a bottle cap can hold enough water for Zika mosquitoes to breed. If you cannot remove standing water from your neighborhood, call 311 to report it.

Those in greatest danger from Zika are pregnant women because the virus can cause birth defects, including microcephaly and severe brain damage. It is crucial that pregnant women do not travel to areas with active Zika transmission ongoing (for the most up-to-date information, please visit the CDC’s website or the BCHD website). If they do travel, men and women should use protection during sex while abroad and for up to six months upon returning to the U.S.

Thank you for your hard work to improve health and well-being in Baltimore—and please stay cool and healthy!

Sincerely, 

Leana S. Wen, M.D., M.Sc.

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