Melbourne's 'Thunderstorm Asthma' Caused 4 Deaths

Melbourne hospitals are swamped with emergency patients, while police and firefighters were called on to help paramedics respond to thousands of calls after a rare condition, known as the "Thunderstorm Asthma", caused breathing problems.

Victoria Ran Out Of Ambulances To Respond To Emergency Calls

Storm of high pollen count, northerly winds and humid conditions from 7pm on Monday triggered the rare phenomenon.  Thunderstorm asthma caused a spike on emergency calls, with 1900 calls between 6pm and 11pm.  Jill Hennessy, the Health Minister, said it was like "a bomb going off", with all ambulances, police, fire and non-emergency transport being used to deal with the crisis.  As a result, a shortage of ambulance and medical crew was experienced.  "Our health system was stretched to the limit," Hennessy said.

Thunderstorm Asthma Claimed Four Lives

The rare disaster caused at least 30 people, including two children, to be brought in intensive care, and four deaths.  The four dead were: Hope Carnevali, a 20-year-old law student, who died on the front lawn of her family's home as she waited for an ambulance.

Omar Moujalled, an 18-year-old just weeks away from graduating from high school, who died on his way to the hospital after a massive asthma attack.

Apollo Papadopoulos, 35, and Clarence Leo, the owner of a security company, who also died following asthma attacks.

Symptoms Of Thunderstorm Asthma Are The Same As Typical Asthma

This is not the first time that thunderstorm asthma hit Melbourne.  The last event was in 2011, but it was not as severe.  This year's occurrence has a much higher amount of pollen in the air, which made it more dangerous. 

Dr John Weiner, consultant physician at AllergyNet Australia said: "Pollen granules don't go into the lungs because they're too big."  He also said that the symptoms are similar to typical asthma but this could be a "dramatic event for people who haven't had asthma before because it occurs so suddenly".

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