FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – It isn’t just the West Nile virus that has North Texas health officials concerned this summer. The Tarrant County Health Department is reminding people to take precautions and keep cool during the hottest months of the year.

Since the month of May, 144 people in Tarrant County have succumbed to heat-related illnesses, like heat exhaustion or heat stroke. But thankfully, no heat-related deaths have been reported yet this year. Last year in Tarrant County, there were six deaths related to the heat. “When experiencing extreme temperatures like we have in the past — and that may return later this summer — anyone can be at risk of succumbing to the heat,” said Dr. Sandra Parker with Tarrant County Public Health.

Tuesday appeared to be the start of another hot streak. Temperatures across North Texas are expected to stay in the high 90s throughout the week, and are forecast to stretch into the triple-digits by this weekend. CBS 11 News meteorologist Garry Seith predicted 101 or 102 degrees in some areas.

There are numerous programs and organizations that provide financial assistance to low income residents who need help with anything from paying their electricity bills to obtaining small box fans. Those include Catholic Charities Fort Worth and the United Way of Tarrant County. Residents in need of assistance can contact these organizations directly or call 211.

Vicki Mize with Tarrant County’s 211 service said that most phone calls come from residents seeking help with their electric bills, often for the first time. Low income families tend to avoid using air conditioning for fear of increasing their monthly electric bill. “And they’re embarrassed,” Mize said, “because they’re not used to this.”

Officials are also urging residents to do their part to prevent heat illness — drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and stay out of the heat as much as possible. “Just because it doesn’t feel as hot as it did last year doesn’t mean the risk isn’t there,” said Dr. Parker. “And let me tell you, summer is not over.”

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