Prepare for tackling heat waves and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — in tandem

Perspectives

The COVID-19 outbreak is colliding with another public health threat: extreme heat, which causes heat strokes that kill people.
Now we are in the middle of the hottest period of the year. Heat waves are common in Myanmar during the months of March, April, and May, in the daytime as well as at night.
The record mercury level of 47.5 degrees centigrade in Chauk on 8th March, the highest temperature in history, has rung the alarm bell to take precautions against heat waves.
The previous record temperature was 47.2 degrees centigrade in 2010 in Myinmu, a town located in upper Myanmar.
Our country has experienced record high temperatures 22 times since the beginning of this year, which is alarming, since the temperature has increased year by year without EL Nino and La Nina, due to global warming.
People are advised to be on the alert to prevent any losses arising from soaring temperatures. The high temperature, which has persisted for weeks, poses a risk to children and older people.
The Ministry of Health has issued an advisory for people, urging them to drink water frequently and take measures to prevent heatstroke.
The public has also been advised to stay indoors, while returnees from foreign countries and those who had close contacts with the patients testing positive for coronavirus are receiving facility quarantine to stop the spread of the COVID-19 disease.
In our country, only a small percentage of the population has air conditioning. People who need to stay home the most and receive facility quarantine during the pandemic are highly advised to seek advice from health workers to cope with heat waves.
Heat-related illness can begin with mild symptoms, such as a headache and muscle cramps, and can progress to confusion, dizziness, vomiting, and losing consciousness. Once the body reaches a point where it can no longer cool itself by sweating, heat stroke can lead to organ failure and eventual death.
Those most at risk are often the poor and elderly, groups that are similarly hard-hit by the novel coronavirus. Heat-related deaths can be prevented by checking in on people who might be isolated indoors, and providing public places for them to get out and cool down. But those strategies contradict efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19, which mostly focuses on keeping people apart.
Public health experts are beginning to put their heads together to figure out how they may need to tackle two crises — heat waves and the ongoing pandemic — in tandem.
Today is the time to take early measures to address the combination of threats, while complying with COVID-19 health guidelines.

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