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

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

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

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