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Health threat Heatwave warning as Swiss temperatures soar

A woman in swimsuit jumps into a river to join other swimmers

People take refuge from the heatwave in rivers and lakes

(Keystone)

Health officials advise elderly and infirm people, along with pregnant women, to stay out of the sun as Switzerland swelters in a Europe-wide heatwave. The Swiss health ministry issued a warning on Wednesday in a bid to avoid the nearly 1,000 deaths in Switzerland that were attributed to the last sustained heatwave in 2003.

Thermometers all around Switzerland are topping 30 degrees Celsius and temperatures are expected to remain high for a number of days. The Swiss meteorological office, MeteoSwiss, expects to record at least eight days of extraordinary temperatures this month, compared to an average of two over the last decades.

While this would be some way off the 19 ultra-hot days recorded in some parts of Switzerland in June 2003, it still represents a health risk to some people.

The Swiss health ministry has therefore issued a warning for vulnerable groups of people to take care in the heat. The warning advises people to drink plenty of water, stay inside if possible and avoid strenuous outdoor activities.

Sustained high temperatures in 2003 accounted for 975 deaths in Switzerland, according to a peer-reviewed studyexternal link published in 2005, and over 70,000 across Europe. This year, countries such as Portugal and Spain have seen 40°C-plus temperatures and devastating forest fires in Portugal.

Swiss animal protection groups have also warned dog owners not to leave their pets in cars where temperatures can reach 80°C if windows are not left open. 

swissinfo.ch/mga

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