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Australia: 400 people are believed to have died as a result of the bush fires

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The extraordinary bush fires in Australia likely killed more than 400 people from smoke inhalation. This is based on current estimates by air pollution researcher Fay Johnston from the University of Tasmania and her team. 33 people also died in direct connection with the fires that raged in the southeast of the country from November 2019 to February 2020.

The scientists determined how many people came to the emergency room, were admitted to the hospital and died every day. They then created a map with detailed data on air pollution from October 1 to February 10 and modeled how the local air pollution affected the emergency rooms.

This article is featured in Spectrum - The Week, 13/2020

They found that there were likely to have been up to 417 additional deaths and 1,305 emergency room admissions due to asthma attacks during the study period. Another 3,151 people were also hospitalized with heart and other breathing difficulties.

The results, which now appear in the Medical Journal of Australia, are the first publication in which experts estimate the medical effects of the smoke from the bushfire. Johnston estimates that around 80 percent of Australia's 25 million people were affected by smog, in some cases over several weeks. Measured against a normal fire season in summer, the duration and extent of these fires would have exceeded the limits of what has been seen before, says Johnston.

In retrospect, it is very important to assess the real impact of smoke exposure on the population, says Guy Marks, an epidemiologist who studies respiratory diseases at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. “At the time these deaths and hospital admissions occur, it is generally unrecognizable that they are related to the fires and smoke. As a result, they tend to be given less attention, ”says Marks, who was not involved in the current study.

This article appeared under the title "Bushfire smoke linked to hundreds of deaths" in "Nature News".