3 Australians critically ill after rare thunderstorm asthma

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — An official says three patients remain critically ill three days after a rare condition known as thunderstorm asthma killed four people and sent hundreds to hospitals in Australia’s second-largest city.

Victoria state Health Minister Jill Hennessy said Thursday that doctors are amazed there were not more fatalities given the numbers of people who suffered cardiac arrests and struggled to breathe when a wild thunderstorm struck Melbourne on Monday night.

The storm caused rain-sodden ryegrass pollen to explode and disperse over the city, with ruptured particles penetrating deep into lungs. Almost a third of patient who suffered asthma attacks on Monday reported never having asthma before.

Hennessy says nine patients remain in intensive care units after Monday’s unprecedented event that overwhelmed Melbourne’s hospitals and emergency services.

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