Surveillance report Open Access
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This paper describes a retrospective analysis of the impact of the 2003 heat wave on mortality in England and Wales, and compares this with rapid estimates based on the Office for National Statistics routine weekly deaths reporting system. Daily mortality data for 4 to 13 August 2003, when temperatures were much hotter than normally seen in England, were compared with averages for the same period in years 1998 to 2002. The August 2003 heat wave was associated with a large short-term increase in mortality, particularly in London. Ozone and particulate matter concentrations were also elevated during the heat wave. Overall, there were 2139 (16%) excess deaths in England and Wales. Worst affected were people over the age of 75 years. The impact was greatest in the London region where deaths in those over the age of 75 increased by 59%. Estimated excess mortality was greater than for other recent heat waves in the United Kingdom. The estimated number of deaths registered each week is reported by the Office for National Statistics. The first clear indication of a substantial increase in deaths was published on 21 August 2003. This provided a quick first estimate of the number of deaths attributable to the heat wave and reflected the pattern of daily deaths in relation to the hottest days, but underestimated the excess when compared with the later analysis.


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