3 Aus­tralians crit­i­cally ill af­ter rare thunderstorm asthma

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

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 sec­ond­largest 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. Nine pa­tients re­mained in in­ten­sive care units on Thurs­day af­ter the un­prece­dented event that over­whelmed Mel­bourne’s hos­pi­tals and emer­gency ser­vices, Hen­nessy said. The con­di­tion of three of those pa­tients was listed as crit­i­cal, she said. “I’m pleased we haven’t had more deaths ... but those deaths are four deaths too many,” Hen­nessy told re­porters.

Ex­perts were try­ing to de­ter­mine whether asthma thun­der­storms could be pre­dicted, and the Aus­tralian Bu­reau of Me­te­o­rol­ogy and other govern­ment agen­cies met with pollen sci­en­tists Thurs­day to dis­cuss whether fu­ture events could be ac­cu­rately fore­cast.

Mel­bourne Uni­ver­sity botanist Ed New­bi­gin, who runs Mel­bourne’s main pollen-count­ing sta­tion, said fore­cast­ing such events should be pos­si­ble. “Thun­der­storms and high pollen lev­els in the air oc­cur rea­son­ably fre­quently this time of year, but not all those events re­sult in episodes of thunderstorm asthma,” New­bi­gin said. “We can prob­a­bly fig­ure out what are the re­quire­ments for pro­duc­ing thunderstorm asthma and come up with, if not a per­fect fore­cast sys­tem, at least a pretty good one,” he said. The world’s first recorded thunderstorm asthma event oc­curred in Mel­bourne in 1987. Sim­i­lar events have hap­pened in the United States, Canada, Bri­tain and Italy. The last ma­jor event in Mel­bourne was in Novem­ber 2010. —AP

SEOUL: Mem­bers of the en­vi­ron­men­tal group Green­peace hold plac­ards and balls sym­bol­iz­ing mi­croplas­tics from cos­metic prod­ucts dur­ing a cam­paign to sup­port a mi­crobeads ban, at the Han river on Au­gust 9, 2016. —AFP

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