Forsyth County

Heat stroke or COVID-19? Doctors say both illnesses have similar symptoms

FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — The searing temperatures combined with fears about coronavirus are a double shot to metro Atlanta hospitals.

Channel 2′s Tom Regan was at Northside Hospital in Forsyth, where emergency room doctors said patients are showing up with heat-stroke, but think they have COVID-19.

Some of the symptoms of heat stroke are similar to the coronavirus, which has created a double whammy for area hospitals.

Still, the heat -- and the virus -- haven’t discouraged people from getting outside.

"Sometimes it's so hot, you can kind of see the steam coming off of the turf," Roswell resident Libby Roude said. "It's pretty toasty."

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The intense heat and humidity are now reaching a dangerous level across the metro Atlanta area.

Dr. Vida Reklaitis, an ER doctor at Northside, said they are seeing a lot of heat exposure, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Many people suffering a medical crisis from heat exposure show up at the ER, thinking that they’ve caught the coronavirus.

"Heat stroke can present as fatigue, exhaustion, it can present as nausea, vomiting," Reklaitis said. "Those are all COVID symptoms as well."

Reklaitis said the heat has complicated the battle against the virus. It's sending more people indoors, in confined spaces, where it can more easily spread.

"I think that is what we are seeing in Florida with their spike. It's hot down there," Reklaitis said. "People are going inside where it's good and it's air conditioned. And unfortunately everyone is on top of each other."

Reklaitis said about half the patients showing up at the ER believe they have the coronavirus. She said the staff is taking every precaution.

Monday is the eighth straight day that temperatures have been in the 90s.