Victoria’s west on high alert after thunderstorm asthma warnings

Residents in Victoria’s west have been told to stay indoors amid fears thunderstorms forecast for the Mallee, South West and Wimmera regions could create a thunderstorm asthma epidemic on Thursday.

The Department of Health said a combination of high grass pollen levels and strong winds meant there was an increased chance people could develop asthma symptoms in a short period of time.

A thunderstorm warning has been issued for parts of Victoria’s west.Credit:ninevms

With hospitals under pressure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Deputy Chief Health Officer Angie Bone said it was important that people stayed well and monitored their health.

“Health and emergency services are monitoring the situation closely and are ready to respond,” she said.

According to the Melbourne Pollen Count, East Gippsland, Mallee, North East, Northern Country and Wimmera are expected to hit “extreme” levels of pollen in the air on Thursday.

Much of the state’s centre, including Melbourne, will also reach “high” pollen counts.

This will bring a high thunderstorm asthma risk for the South West, Mallee, and Wimmera, and a moderate risk for Melbourne, Bendigo and Shepparton.

People are advised to protect themselves by avoiding being outdoors in the storm, taking preventative medication as directed and carrying relievers in case they need to manage an asthma attack.

Having both asthma and hay fever can increase the risk of complications.

Anyone with concerns should also monitor the epidemic thunderstorm asthma risk forecast on the VicEmergency app.

Ten people died in Victoria as a result of the thunderstorm asthma event of November 21, 2016, after grass pollen burst into smaller particles during a thunderstorm, triggering severe asthma in thousands of people across Melbourne.

It was the most deadly outbreak of thunderstorm asthma recorded in the world.

Thunderstorm asthma events can occur from October through to December when pollen grains are drawn up into the clouds as thunderstorms form, absorbing moisture and bursting open.

Victorians are advised to see their doctor or call a nurse on 1300 60 60 24 if they require medical advice. If someone is not breathing, their asthma suddenly becomes worse or is not improving, or if they are having an asthma attack without a reliever on hand, they should immediately call 000.

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