Up to three days' warning promised for thunderstorm asthma

Hospitals were inundated last November with thunderstorm asthma victims.  Photo: Justin McManus

Hospitals were inundated last November with thunderstorm asthma victims. Photo: Justin McManus

A new alert system will give Victorians up to three days' warning of conditions that could cause deadly thunderstorm asthma, the state government has pledged.

A lack of an early warning system was a key factor in the freak thunderstorm asthma outbreak last November that killed nine people in Melbourne and landed about 8500 in hospital, Health Minister Jill Hennessy said on Sunday. 

As the pollen season begins, Victorians are being urged to seek medical advice if they are prone to hay fever, whether or not they have a history of asthma, to determine if they are vulnerable to the pollen-caused illness.

Ms Hennessy said the government had overhauled the emergency response system and that authorities would now be able to monitor hospital emergency department presentations in real time.

The new forecasting system will monitor grass pollen forecasts, weather observations and other information including wind changes, temperature, rainfall and grass coverage in an effort to generate early warnings.

Despite the new system, which will trigger alerts that will be publicised by Emergency Management Victoria, the minister said people who had any sort of hay fever should not be complacent even if they had no asthma symptoms.

The new forecasting system will monitor grass pollen forecasts, weather observations and other information. Photo: Nick Moir

The new forecasting system will monitor grass pollen forecasts, weather observations and other information. Photo: Nick Moir

"Don't dismiss those hay fever symptoms, talk to your GP and your pharmacist about having an asthma plan or what other steps you should take to protect yourself," Ms Hennessy said.

"We need people to take this seriously."

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