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September 2017

Protecting Victorians during thunderstorm asthma

The State Government has launched a new public health information and education campaign to prepare Victorians for the possibility of thunderstorm asthma during the upcoming pollen season.

The campaign – funded as part of the Government’s $15 million package to better predict and respond to large-scale emergencies such as thunderstorm asthma – was rolled out at the start of National Asthma Week and will continue throughout this year’s pollen season.

People with asthma or hay fever are particularly susceptible to thunderstorm asthma events and for many it can be sudden, serious and life-threatening.

Last year’s unprecedented thunderstorm asthma event saw Victoria’s hospitals, ambulances and emergency services pushed to the limit.

Never before had they experienced such rapid-onset demand in such a condensed time period and across such a large geographical area.

The new campaign is part of the Government’s work to ensure all Victorians – but particularly asthma and hay fever sufferers – are as prepared as they can be should thunderstorm asthma occur again.

It is a call to action for all Victorians to protect themselves this pollen season. Victorians should:

•       Make sure their asthma plan is up-to-date;

•       Ensure the medication they need is at hand;

•       Speak to their GP, or a pharmacist, about what they can do to protect themselves.

In addition to the awareness campaign, the Government is also providing new training for GPs, pharmacists and nurses on how to better prepare for, treat and manage people affected by thunderstorm asthma.

The Government is partnering with the Bureau of Meteorology to develop a new thunderstorm asthma forecasting system – one of the first in the world – along with expanded pollen monitoring networks.

The world-leading system will be operational by October – when pollen season starts – and will run through to the end of December.

Further work is also underway to improve health emergency response arrangements, real-time monitoring of emergency department presentations and public information and warnings systems.

‘We want everyone to be protected during thunderstorm asthma events this pollen season,’ said Minister for Health Jill Hennessy.

‘This campaign will make sure Victorians have the information they need to stay healthy and safe.

‘We’re doing everything we can to make sure that if thunderstorm asthma happens again, we’ll be as ready as we can be.

‘People with asthma should ensure their asthma plan is up to date and they carry their medication with them at all times.

‘Don’t risk it this pollen season,’ Ms Hennessy said.

•       For information visit https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/campaigns/thunderstorm-asthma.