567 cold deaths in Austria in the past 21 years

567 cold deaths in Austria in the past 21 years
The cold can be life-threatening for homeless people.
Image: (Volker Weihbold)

The daily newspaper “Kurier” reports this in its Wednesday edition, citing figures from Statistics Austria. However, the numbers fluctuated greatly over the study period – from nine deaths in 2002 and 2018 to 46 cases in 2013 to 34 cold deaths in 2022. The reason for the fluctuations is difficult to explain, the Vienna professional rescue service said in the report.

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In addition to low temperatures, there are other risk factors for death from cold, such as age. “Young and especially old people in particular have a higher risk because heat production from certain ‘brown’ fatty tissue does not work,” Barbara Hallmann, senior physician at Vienna’s professional rescue service, was quoted as saying. The numbers are also recorded by federal state. Lower Austria clearly leads the statistics. There have been 115 cases there since 2002. According to Statistics Austria, the fewest cold deaths were in Burgenland with 23 cold-related deaths. With 50 cold deaths, Vienna is in the lower midfield.

Several cases in the previous week

Last week there were several such cold deaths in Austria. Such cases usually involve death due to hypothermia (medical: hypothermia), explained Wolfgang Schreiber, chief physician of the Austrian Red Cross on Monday. Death from frostbite or freezing to death only occurs in high alpine areas. “Avalanche accident victims usually do not die of hypothermia, but rather suffocate,” said the doctor.

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If a hypothermic person is found alive and taken to a hospital, the prognosis is good that they will survive without any lasting damage. For hypothermia, “these cold temperatures are not really needed,” said Schreiber. According to the doctor, most of the patients who need to be treated are old people who don’t heat or heat too sparingly, fall into their house or apartment, can’t get up and stay lying there for a long time until someone notices.

In addition, people who end up lying outdoors in cold temperatures and can no longer get up or who do not feel the cold due to intoxication are also affected. If there is wind or if you fall into cold water, you will cool down more quickly.

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