J25.5 Can We Predict Thunderstorm Asthma Epidemics: A Case Study of 7 Events in Melbourne, Australia

Tuesday, 9 January 2018: 11:30 AM
Room 17B (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Andrew Grundstein, The Univ. of Georgia, Athens, GA; and P. W. Miller, J. Silver, and J. M. Shepherd

Thunderstorm asthma is a term used to describe the association between thunderstorm activity and increases in asthma exacerbation. Geographically, it has been documented across the globe but Melbourne, Australia has experienced more events than anywhere else, including a devastating event in November 2016 that killed at least 9 people and drove thousands to seek medical attention. The 2016 event in particular caught many residents and the emergency medical community unprepared. The basic ingredients for epidemic-scale events include high grass pollen concentrations, thunderstorms, and large population centers. Further, some studies suggest strength of thunderstorm outflows may be of particular importance in widely distributing allergenic pollen fragments and increasing exposure. Mesoscale pre-conditions may provide both diagnostic and prognostic information to identify thunderstorms that may produce strong downdraft winds and in association with other factors lead to thunderstorm asthma events. The aim of this study, then, is to investigate seven documented thunderstorm asthma events in the vicinity of Melbourne and to identify common patterns in the synoptic and mesoscale environments. It is hoped such information may be of use in warning residents, and health practitioners, and emergency management officials.
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