A major storm event in Melbourne in 2016 claimed the lives of at least ten people due to severe allergies and complications caused by a phenomenon known as thunderstorm asthma.
Now, a new study into Melbourne’s 2016 thunderstorm asthma epidemic has identified a ‘trifecta of risk’ in people most vulnerable.
Associate Professor Cenk Suphioglu, from Deakin University’s NeuroAllergy Research Laboratory, analysed emergency department and weather data from the deadly thunderstorm asthma outbreak, which happened on 21 November of that year.
He found that people most at risk had three things in common: ryegrass pollen allergy, undiagnosed asthma and no action plan for the management and treatment of asthma.
He said identifying these risk factors was critically important to prevent fatalities during future thunderstorm outbreaks, most likely to occur in November each year.
“People most at risk of thunderstorm asthma have an existing grass pollen sensitivity, especially to ryegrass pollen, but may not be aware they have undiagnosed asthma,” Associate Professor Suphioglu said.
“The second and third factors are particularly worrying because it is estimated that between 20 to 70 per cent of people with asthma are undiagnosed and thus, are not receiving treatment.”
“People of Asian ethnicity are also more susceptible to thunderstorm asthma and we believe this is because allergic rhinitis is twice as common in this population compared to non-Asians,” Associate Professor Suphioglu said.
Take a deep breath and support for our universities as they work to save lives – sign the petition to Keep It Clever now.