Bid to ease the wheeze
‘We’re ready for asthma storm’
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.