Thunderstorm asthma deaths under spotlight

Source: SBS

A review into the emergency service response to Melbourne's asthma thunderstorm will examine at least four deaths linked to the rare phenomenon.The man who runs Melbourne's main pollen counting station thinks it's possible to develop an asthma thunderstorm forecast given useful data exists from previous events.

"We get those conditions of high grass pollen and thunderstorms quite regularly in Melbourne at this time of year but it's not every time that we get thunderstorm asthma," pollen expert Ed Newbigin from Melbourne University told AAP.

"So there is another factor involved that we don't know (yet)."

Associate Professor Newbigin, who's attending Thursday's meeting, is convinced the state's various monitoring bodies can identify the missing ingredient.

But how reliable a forecasting model would be, and whether it could predict when an event would be as extreme as on Monday, is unknown.

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Three remain critical after asthma storm

Sky News

Three people remain in critical condition following Melbourne's asthma thunderstorm, which has been linked to at least four deaths so far.

Melbourne hospitals treated more than 8500 patients across Monday night and Tuesday, the health department said on Thursday.

'The thunderstorm asthma event on Monday was a health emergency of unprecedented scale,' a spokesman said in a statement.

Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy says senior doctors are amazed there weren't many more deaths given the number of people who suffered cardiac arrest and breathing difficulties during the storm which overwhelmed emergency services and hospitals.

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3 Australians Critically Ill After Rare Thunderstorm Asthma

NY Times

MELBOURNE, Australia — Three patients remained critically ill on Thursday, three days after a rare condition known as thunderstorm asthma killed four people and sent hundreds to hospitals in Australia's second-largest city, an official said.

Doctors were amazed there were not more fatalities given the numbers of people who suffered cardiac arrests and struggled to breathe when a wild thunderstorm struck Melbourne on Monday night, Victoria state Health Minister Jill Hennessy said.

The storm caused rain-sodden ryegrass pollen to explode and disperse over the city, with ruptured particles penetrating deep into lungs. Almost one third of patients who suffered asthma attacks on Monday reported never having asthma before.

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'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.

...

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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Prof Ed Newbigin discussing thunderstorm asthma on ABC News 24

Prof Ed Newbigin (University of Melbourne) discussing thunderstorm asthma on ABC News 24 - 22 November 2016

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School of BioSciences, University of Melbourne. Phone: +61 3 8344 4871.