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Victoria receives a health warning about ‘thunderstorm asthma’ – four years after a deadly storm

Victorians issued deadly health warning about ‘storm asthma’ – four years after horror conditions killed TEN people in one day

  • The bizarre weather conditions are caused by high pollen levels and strong winds
  • Ten people died during or shortly after a thunderstorm asthma incident in 2016
  • People with asthma and hay fever need to stay indoors during high-risk storms

Victorians may spend less time outdoors due to COVID-19 restrictions, but health authorities still urge residents to be on the lookout for deadly thunderstorm asthma.

Ten people died during or shortly after an asthma thunderstorm incident in Melbourne on November 21, 2016.

Victoria’s deputy head of health, Allen Cheng, warned in a message to the public on Thursday of the bizarre storm, which prompted an inquest.

A combination of high pollen levels and high winds can cause the phenomenon.

Victorian health authorities have issued a warning to residents to be on the lookout for thunderstorms and asthma events in the coming months - four years after a storm in Melbourne (pictured) killed ten people

Victorian health authorities have issued a warning to residents to be on the lookout for thunderstorms and asthma events in the coming months – four years after a storm in Melbourne (pictured) killed ten people

November is usually the peak period for the asthma incident, but Dr. Cheng said it could take place any time from October to December.

The Bureau of Meteorology on Tuesday confirmed a La Nina over the Pacific Ocean, meaning Australia is likely to have a rainy spring and summer.

There is the possibility of flooding and more severe tropical cyclones than usual.

“This probably means it’s a somewhat high risk of thunderstorms, although the pollen forecast at this stage is only that it’s likely to be moderate,” Dr. Cheng told reporters.

Current, former or undiagnosed asthma patients and hay fever patients should stay indoors when high-risk epidemic asthma events occur, or they need to be in good control of their condition.

Photographers fleeing Melbourne's iconic St Kilda Beach during the deadly weather event on November 21, 2016

Photographers fleeing Melbourne's iconic St Kilda Beach during the deadly weather event on November 21, 2016

Photographers fleeing Melbourne’s iconic St Kilda Beach during the deadly weather event on November 21, 2016

“If you’re in one of those groups, you should see your doctor and make sure you have an action plan in place in case something happens,” said Dr. Cheng.

“There have been many changes in drug recommendations in the past year.

“Even if you’ve seen your doctor but haven’t seen him in a while, it may be worth making sure the medication you’re taking is appropriate.”

Dr. Cheng said concerned Victorians could check pollen counters on the VicEmergency app and the University of Melbourne website.

He assured the community that systems were ready to issue high pollen warnings and monitor hospital admissions for signs of epidemic thunderstorm asthma.

WHAT IS ‘THUNDERSTORM ASTH’?

  • ‘Thunderstorm asthma’ is caused when a big storm sweeps pollen and irritants into the atmosphere.
  • The irritants cause asthma patients to have an attack.
  • Rain and humidity can also set in motion irritants that affect asthma.

SOURCE: Allergy Society Australia

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