Epidemic thunderstorm asthma is thought to be triggered by an uncommon combination of high pollen levels and a certain type of thunderstorm, causing a large number of people to develop asthma symptoms over a short period of time.
2016 thunderstorm asthma event
This phenomenon occurred in Victoria on the evening of Monday 21 November 2016 and led to thousands of people developing breathing difficulties in a very short period of time.
While other events have been recorded in Melbourne and in other parts of the world, the November 2016 event was unprecedented in size, severity and impact, and was the largest incident of its type ever recorded in the world.
In the 30 hours from 6 pm on 21 November, there was a 672 per cent increase in respiratory-related presentations to Melbourne and Geelong public hospitals (3,365 more presentations than expected based on the three-year average).
Tragically, the event also led to 10 deaths, which have been investigated by the State Coroner.
Thunderstorm Asthma Program
Since the November 2016 event, the department has worked closely with a wide range of stakeholders to develop and implement a comprehensive Thunderstorm Asthma Program to minimise the impact that any future epidemic thunderstorm asthma events may have on the community and the Victorian health system.
As part of the Program, the department has:
- implemented a and education programs for the Victorian community and
- updated its public communications and warnings including integration with
- developed expert to identify and manage those at increased risk
- revised the and improved how we plan, communicate and work with our health services and emergency management sector partners during emergencies
- hosted an epidemic thunderstorm asthma symposium with experts from across Australia
- published an extensive epidemic thunderstorm asthma literature review, and published a detailed assessment of the known environmental conditions and the health impacts of the event
- implemented a Real-time Health Emergency Monitoring System to alert the department to significant demands on public hospital emergency departments and ensure early responses to actual or potential health emergencies
- built and implemented the first .
Reviewed 11 March 2023