3 October 2017

New early warning system for thunderstorm asthma

Allergies Public Health

The Victorian Government has launched a thunderstorm asthma monitoring system in time for the start of the pollen season.

The system will provide early warnings about thunderstorm asthma to the public from October until the end of December.

It is a key component of the state’s $15 million response to last year’s disastrous season which resulted in nine fatalities.

Hospitals and emergency services were overwhelmed in November 2016 when the world’s worst case of thunderstorm asthma hit Melbourne and Geelong.

The state would now be better prepared for the upcoming season, Victoria’s  Minister for Health Jill Hennessy said.

“If it happens again, we will be ready,” she said. “Our new epidemic thunderstorm asthma forecasting and warning system means Victorians will have the information they need to stay safe this pollen season.”

The monitoring system combines data on pollen levels with information about wind changes, temperature, rainfall and grass coverage.

Pollen levels were being monitored through five new pollen traps in Hamilton, Creswick, Bendigo, Dookie and Churchill, and three pre-existing traps in Parkville, Burwood and Geelong.

The government partnered with the Bureau of Meteorology, the University of Melbourne, Deakin University and other research organisations to develop the system.

Professor Charles Guest, the Victorian Chief Health Officer, urged people with asthma and allergic rhinitis to speak to their GP about protecting themselves from thunderstorm asthma events.

The government was also funding public health information and education campaigns on thunderstorm asthma.