LITTLE ROCK — The state Department of Health announced the year’s first reported heat-related death Thursday.

The department did not release the victim’s name, gender, age or place of death, citing medical privacy law.

Arkansas recorded 17 deaths from heat-related illness in 2011. Hot temperatures and high humidity are a dangerous mix that contributes to illness and death each year, the department said.

"Everyone is vulnerable when the temperatures and humidity stay so high for so long," Dr. Dirk Haselow, director for the Health Department’s Communicable Disease branch, said in a release.

"We are especially concerned for the elderly, the very young, anyone with a chronic disease and anyone who is actively working or playing outside in this heat," Haselow said. "Those who are living inside without air conditioning are also at risk."

The department cautioned that anyone, even strong, health athletes, can be stricken with heat-related conditions such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Officials advised that those who work, exercise or participate in other strenuous activity such as football practice for an hour or more during intense heat should schedule breaks, drink plenty of water and wear sunscreen to protect against sunburn and skin cancer.