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NEW ZEALAND: Authorities Imports Skin From US To Treat White Island Volcano Victims

By Published December 11, 2019

As doctors in New Zealand struggle to deal with the scale of burn patients injured in the Whakaari/White Island volcanic eruption, authorities have ordered the importation of 120 square meters of skin from the United States and Australia to treat victims.

The amount of skin needed equates to about 60 donors but in New Zealand only five to 10 people donate skin each year.

Skin donations—which last about five years in sub-zero temperatures—are used as dressing on burn wounds to control infection until the victims are well enough to have skin grafts taken from their own bodies. The amount needed for the volcano victims comes from about 60 donors and will be provide emergency care for the worst of the 29 victims still in intensive care in New Zealand burn centres.

Emergency-room personnel were inundated with victims and had to go out to buy commercial cling film to help wrap burns in the initial hours after the disaster struck.

“It’s one of the most challenging things to look at because you know the patients are in so much pain and will be fighting for their life for the next two or three weeks and even then they could die,” John Bonning, president of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, told local media.

All of those still hospitalized have burns covering 30 percent or more of their bodies and 22 people are on air tubes due to burned or damaged lungs from the eruption.

At least 14 people are believed to have died in the eruption. Emergency workers have not been able to access the island to recover bodies due to the threat of another imminent eruption.

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