Christmas Greetings from MPC

Peace, love and joy to all.  The Melbourne Pollen Count team wishes everyone a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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Keeping one step ahead of pollen triggers for thunderstorm asthma

The recent Melbourne thunderstorm asthma event has led some people to question what made this hay fever season so bad and how this tragic event occurred.

Thunderstorm asthma, a sudden surge in cases of acute respiratory illness coinciding with local thunderstorms, ranges from small events that affect handfuls of people to large-scale epidemics that impact a whole city and severely strain the capacity of emergency services.

Thunderstorm asthma occurs when a complex interaction of meteorological and biological factors affects a group of susceptible individuals.

We don’t yet know the clinical circumstances and allergic sensitivities of those who sought medical care on the night of the recent episode. But, based on similar events in Australia, most will likely have been allergic to grass pollen, in particular rye grass pollen.

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Photo by Dan@Flickr

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Rare thunderstorm asthma kills 4 in Australia

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.

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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.

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This information is copyright (disclaimer & copyright).
Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part maybe reproduced by any process without prior written permission from
the University of Melbourne, Australia. Requests and inquiries concerning reproduction and rights should be addressed to Associate Professor Ed Newbigin
School of BioSciences, University of Melbourne. Phone: +61 3 8344 4871.