Bid to ease the wheeze

‘We’re ready for asthma storm’

Sunday Herald Sun - - NEWS - GRANT MCARTHUR HEALTH EDI­TOR grant.mcarthur@news.com.au

A THUN­DER­STORM asthma early warn­ing sys­tem has been rolled out across Vic­to­ria to pre­vent a re­peat of the tragedy that claimed nine lives in last Novem­ber’s freak weather event.

With the pollen sea­son start­ing today, the state is launch­ing its new fore­cast­ing model that sees eight mon­i­tor­ing sta­tions set up across the Vic­to­ria as an early warn­ing of po­ten­tial dan­ger.

If they de­tect the con­di­tions re­quired for a thun­der­storm asthma event — a com­bi­na­tion of high grass pollen, wind changes, tem­per­a­ture, rain­fall and grass cover­age — a traf­fic light scale of green, orange and red will be used to trig­ger pub­lic warn­ings.

The world-lead­ing thun­der­storm asthma mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem is a key plank of the An­drews Gov­ern­ment’s $15 mil­lion re­sponse to last Novem­ber’s tragedy, which landed 8500 peo­ple in hos­pi­tal with lit­tle or no warn­ing ahead of the tragic weather con­di­tions.

Al­most half of those af­fected by the deadly thun­der­storm asthma event had never been di­ag­nosed with asthma and were un­aware of ap­pro­pri­ate first aid mea­sures.

But as Vic­to­ria en­ters the dan­ger pe­riod for a re­peat event, Health Min­is­ter Jill Hen­nessy said the fore­cast­ing and warn­ing sys­tem would pro­vide the in­for­ma­tion needed to stay safe.

“Last year’s un­prece­dented epi­demic thun­der­storm asthma event was the largest ever recorded in the world,” she said.

“If it hap­pens again, we will be ready.”

The Bureau of Me­te­o­rol­ogy, Univer­sity of Mel­bourne, Deakin Univer­sity and other re­search or­gan­i­sa­tions have com­bined to op­er­ate the epi­demic thun­der­storm asthma fore­cast­ing sys­tem.

As well as ex­ist­ing pollen traps at Parkville, Bur­wood and Gee­long, new mon­i­tor­ing sta­tions have been set up at Hamil­ton, Creswick, Bendigo, Dookie and Churchill, to op­er­ate from Oc­to­ber 1 un­til the end of De­cem­ber.

Vic­to­ria’s Chief Health Of­fi­cer, Pro­fes­sor Charles Guest, said those most at risk should speak to their GP or a phar­ma­cist about what they can do to pro­tect them­selves.

“We want everyone — es­pe­cially peo­ple with asthma and hay fever — to be as pre­pared as they can be for thun­der­storm asthma,” he said.

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