'Thunderstorm asthma:' Deadly illness caused by freak weather

By Reed Alexander and James Griffiths, CNN

An unusual combination of weather conditions leading to a freak illness known as thunderstorm asthma has left four people dead in Australia.

Thousands of people were rushed to hospital Monday with breathing problems in the southern Australian state of Victoria as emergency services struggled to cope. Three were still in a critical condition Thursday, a Victorian Department of Health spokesman told CNN.

During a four hour period Monday, Ambulance Victoria received more than 1,900 calls, or one call every four to five seconds. An extra 60 ambulances were deployed, as well as police and firefighters.

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Edward Newbigin, a professor of biosciences at the University of Melbourne, said that many of those affected in Australia this week may never have had an asthma attack before.
"I imagine it was absolutely terrifying," he said.

Of more than 2,500 people surveyed by the university, 74% said they experienced asthma during the storm. Of those, 32% had never experienced an asthma attack before.

thunderstorm asthma survey

 

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Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part maybe reproduced by any process without prior written permission from
the University of Melbourne, Australia. Requests and inquiries concerning reproduction and rights should be addressed to Associate Professor Ed Newbigin
School of BioSciences, University of Melbourne. Phone: +61 3 8344 4871.