Egypt’s health minister says 17 more people have died due to an “unprecedented” heat wave, raising this week’s death toll to 76.

Health Minister Adel al-Adawy said Thursday that the deaths are mostly among the elderly, and include eight patients of a psychiatric hospital. Adawy says 1,205 people are in hospitals being treated for heat exhaustion.

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Adawy dismissed rumors of a meningitis epidemic when pressed on the escalating death toll.

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The Mideast has been in the grip of a heat wave since late July.

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Egyptian summers are usually hot, but temperatures this week soared to 46 degrees Celsius (114 degrees Fahrenheit) in the south. Temperatures dropped slightly Thursday.

Associated Press