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Fulminant is any event or process which occurs suddenly, quickly and is intense and severe to the point of lethality, i.e, it has an explosive character. The word comes from Latin fulmināre, to strike with lightning. It is most used in medicine, and there are several diseases which have this adjective:

Some viral hemorrhagic fevers, such as Ebola, Lassa fever and Lábrea fever may kill in as short a time as 2 to 5 days. Diseases that cause rapidly-developing lung edema, such as some kinds of pneumonia, may kill in a few hours. For example, it was said of the black death (pneumonic bubonic plague) that some of its victims would die in a matter of hours after the initial symptoms appeared. Other pathologic conditions that may be fulminating in character are acute respiratory distress syndrome, asthma, acute anaphylaxis, septic shock and disseminated intravascular coagulation.

The most rapid deaths are those provoked by massive body trauma, such as in an explosion, smashing of the whole body, etc., and, of course, by being hit by lightning. Following this, localized acute trauma to the heart and to the brain (such as by putting a bullet through them), are also almost instantaneously lethal. Commotio cordis is a sudden cardiac arrest caused by a blunt, non-penetrating trauma to the precordium, which causes ventricular fibrillation of the heart, and it is often observed in young athletes in some sports. Then, cardiac arrest and stroke in certain parts of the brain, such as in the brainstem (which controls cardiovascular and respiratory system functions), and massive hemorrhage of the great arteries (such as in perforation of the walls by trauma or by sudden opening of an aneurysm of the aorta) may be very quick, death ensuing in less than one minute. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is still a mysterious cause of respiratory arrest in infants.

Some toxins, such as cyanide may also provoke fulminant death. Abrupt hyperkalemia provoked by intravenous injection of potassium chloride leads to fulminant death by cardiac arrest.

Other meanings

  • To fulminate is to hurl denunciations or menaces to someone, or to kill by lightning. Thus, the Greek god Zeus is commonly represented holding a bunch of lightning bolts in one of his hands, which he used to fulminate mortals he wanted to kill.
  • Fulminates are a class of mercury-based explosives used in detonator caps, due to the startling suddenness with which they explode.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Fulminant". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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