Portugal had two weeks in July with an exceptionally high number of deaths, regardless of the covid-19 pandemic, but the Directorate-General for Health (DGS) says it is a phenomenon “which is nothing new. ”And is due to the heat.
“We think, similarly to what has been the rule, that this variation in mortality is related to the meteorology”, said the director of the Directorate of Information and Analysis of DGS, Inês Fronteira, adding: “It is a phenomenon that worries but it is not new, neither at the country level nor at the level of what is happening in other countries ”.
Lusa questioned the official about today’s news from Público, which states that last month was the July with the most deaths in 12 years, with Covid-19 only explaining 1.5% of these deaths.
“Last month, 10,390 people died in Portugal, the highest recorded in July in 12 years”, with 2,137 more people dying than in the same month last year, about 26% more, says the newspaper, citing also specialists who point out as possible causes the lack of access to the National Health Service (SNS) due to the restrictions caused by the covid-19 pandemic.
Inês Fronteira, in declarations to Lusa, admitted that covid-19 may have some indirect influence, not because of the lack of access to health care, but because it can cause, like any other infection, an imbalance in people who already suffer from some disease .
“When the person has an underlying health problem, such as diabetes, it can happen that when they are exposed to another pathology there is a decompensation of their health status. And this is true for any other type of acute illness, ”he said.
Even so, said Inês Fronteira, it will be the heat waves in July that explain the increase in deaths in older people. Increases in mortality in heat waves and cold waves are common, not only in Portugal but also in the rest of the world, which is why communications are made to the population when they happen, said the official.
In July, he said, the weeks with the most deaths coincided with the weeks when temperatures were highest.
Besides, he added, “these phenomena need some time to be analyzed”, because the “raw data, at the minute, lack any treatment”.
Asked if there is a new heat wave the number of deaths will tend to increase, Inês Fronteira says it is normal that it does, because it has already happened in Portugal and it also happens in other countries. And especially among populations such as children, the elderly and people who are vulnerable in terms of health.
The DGS explains that in the weeks of 06 to 12 July and 20 to 26 July “values of mortality from all causes were observed above the expected for the time of year”.
“These values were observed in all health regions of Portugal, with the exception of autonomous regions, and in the age groups above 75 years of age, coinciding with a period of high temperatures recorded in mainland Portugal”, also says the DGS.
And he concludes, in a statement sent to Lusa: “During this period, warnings from the heat surveillance system (Boletim Ícaro) were issued, which seems to confirm that extreme heat is the most likely cause of the increase in mortality in the age groups above 65 years old”.