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Thunderstorm-Induced Asthma in Australia Kills 4 People

Nov 25, 2016 06:19 AM EST
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Thousands of people were rushed in hospitals after the recent thunderstorm Victoria has exacerbated the allergic effects of pollen, causing a rare condition called thunderstorm asthma. Among the thousands affected by the freakish mix of nature and weather, four people have been confirmed dead with nine more patients under intensive care, three of which are considered critical.

Thunderstorm asthma occurs when a storm hits an area with unusually high rye grass pollen. The rain could sodden the pollens, making it explode and spread throughout the city. Usually, rye grass pollen can be trapped in the nostrils. However, the tiny particles created by the explosion of the rye grass pollen can travel directly into the lungs.

During the recent thunderstorm asthma in Australia's second-largest city, more than 1,900 distress calls were received by Ambulance Victoria in just four hours, translating into four calls every five seconds. Police and firefighters were quickly mobilized, as well as 60 extra ambulance units.

"When you have a perfect storm coming together (of) a very high pollen day, high humidity, and a thunderstorm, the grains of rye grass absorb water with the humidity and they break up into thousands of pieces," explained Robin Ould, chief executive of the Asthma Foundation of Australia, in a report from CNN.

The tiny particles could travel directly and irritate the bronchial tubes of the lungs. This irritation will cause inflammation and creation of mucus, making it difficult to breath. Due to this, people who never have any episodes of asthma in their life may suffer its symptoms.

According to the report from New York Times, different government agencies and experts at various fields of studies are now working hand in hand to determine if a possible occurrence of thunderstorm asthma could be predicted in the future.

Experts noted that not all combination of thunderstorms and high pollen levels in the air could result to thunderstorm asthma. Due to this, scientists believe that understanding the different requirement necessary for the development of thunderstorm asthma could lead to the creation of potential forecast system for the rare condition.

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