The Victorian Department of Human Services has issued a warning to asthma sufferers, due to possible storms forecast for parts of Gippsland and Victoria’s north-east ranges today.
The Department is developing an official warning system, after eight people died from thunderstorm asthma in the past week.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Professor Charles Guest is advising asthma and hay fever sufferers in Gippsland and the north east to carry their inhaler or relievers today.
“They should ensure these are always close at hand, in the car, at work, at home, as it isn’t always possible to predict changing weather conditions,” Professor Guest said.
Anyone experiencing wheezing, chest tightness and difficulty breathing is urged to call triple-0.
“Thunderstorms, combined with pollen in the air can trigger asthma attacks.”
Professor Charles Guest
About 2.3 million Australians have asthma.
Victorian event was worst in world
Victorians may be told to drive their critically ill family and friends to hospital rather than wait for an ambulance if there is another deadly thunderstorm asthma event.
The state’s ambulance chief says people were waiting too long for paramedics to arrive during the freak event on Monday last week, the worst ever recorded.
“We routinely don’t recommend (to) people that they take critically ill people to hospital themselves (but) this is a different type of emergency,” Ambulance Victoria chief executive Tony Walker told 3AW on Wednesday.
“As part of our review we’re looking at … giving the community real-time information to enable them to make an informed decision about what they do.”
Mr Walker said if Ambulance Victoria couldn’t guarantee they’d be there, people should have the information required to make the decision to drive a loved one to hospital.
Paramedics saved “countless lives” during the freak storm, but the families of the eight people who died deserve to know changes would be made, he said.
Grandfather Ranjith Peiris, 57, of Roxburgh Park, has been named by media outlets as one of the latest victims.
One person is still in a critical condition in hospital, and has been getting specialist care since the storm on Monday last week.
Epworth respiratory physician Michael Sutherland says last week’s thunderstorm asthma event was the most severe ever recorded anywhere in the world.
“The previous worst episode was in London in 1994 with 640 cases (and) only five to ICU (intensive care units),” Dr Sutherland told 3AW on Wednesday.
Every available ambulance in Melbourne was sent out on calls during the storm.
More than 8500 people were admitted to hospital and more than 30 were admitted to intensive care.
On Wednesday Chief health officer Charles Guest has told asthma sufferers to keep their medication close at hand with storms predicted for Gippsland and the state’s northeast in the afternoon.
“Thunderstorms, combined with pollen in the air, can cause an increase in asthma symptoms, hay fever and breathing difficulties,” Professor Guest said in a statement.
The Department of Health and Human Services says Wednesday’s storms are not expected to be another thunderstorm asthma event, but it is an important chance for people prone to asthma or hay fever to make sure they are prepared.