Death toll from Australia's thunderstorm asthma reaches 8


A sixth person has died from thunderstorm asthma after an outbreak struck Melbourne last Monday.

A sixth person has died nearly a week after Melbourne was hit by an unprecedented thunderstorm asthma outbreak. However, it is understood the death occurred in the intensive care unit at one of the hospitals in the Eastern Health network. And a further 12 patients were in hospitals with less serious respiratory and related conditions.

"When it rains or is humid, pollen grains can absorb moisture and burst, releasing hundreds of small allergenic particles that can penetrate deep into the small airways of the lung", ASCIA said. Over 8,000 people received hospital treatment in relation to thunderstorm asthma symptoms within two days, officials said.

Sunday's announcement comes nearly one week after the ambulance service was stretched to its limited responding to a mass thunderstorm asthma event across Melbourne and surrounding areas, tackling an unprecedented 1,900 emergency calls in five hours.

It caused many people, including those who had no history of asthma or respiratory issues, to experience mild to severe breathing difficulties.

Thunderstorm asthma in Melbourne, Australia, sent thousands of people to the hospital this week, resulting in five deaths.

The seemingly freak affliction known as thunderstorm asthma is caused by the high level of rye grass pollen in the atmosphere when a storm hits.

A leading emergency physician has called for hospitals to review their response to the emergency, following reports of potentially fatal ambulance delays, Ventolin shortages, and a queue of 18 ambulances at Sunshine Hospital during the disaster.

"Access block needs to be addressed on an ongoing basis to ensure that our emergency departments maintain the capacity to respond to the emergency medical demands of our community", he said.

The United States, Canada, Britain and Italy have all been hit by similar events in the past.

Melbourne was particularly susceptible to "thunderstorm asthma" events as rye grass was found predominantly in the parks and farmlands around the city, the capital of Victoria, he added.

Health Minister Jill Hennessy confirmed on November 26 that there will be an extensive probe by the Inspector for Emergency Management.