As part of our ongoing seminar series, the Centre of Excellence in Severe Asthma hosted Prof. Guy Marks, for a webinar on “Thunderstorm Asthma” on 02 December, 2016.
Thunderstorm Asthma Event, Melbourne:
This webinar was hosted in response to the thunderstorm asthma event in Melbourne during the afternoon of 21st November 2016. This event tragically resulted in the loss of ten lives, determined by coronial investigation. On behalf of the Centre of Excellence in Severe Asthma we offer our sincere condolences to the families who lost loved ones.
Thunderstorm asthma events lead to rapid spikes in severe asthma symptoms. They are associated with local thunderstorms, typically during high pollen seasons. Symptoms can lead to large numbers of emergency calls, hospital attendances and hospital admissions. As seen in Melbourne in December 2016, thunderstorm asthma can also be lethal.
Thunderstorm asthma events require high levels of allergens. Allergens are typically grass pollen but may also be mould or others. Under certain conditions, thunderstorm outflows form that spread allergen at ground level. Inhaled allergen causes symptoms in people who are allergic and have untreated airway hyperresponsiveness.
This seminar provides information on risk factors for thunderstorm asthma. Hay fever was strongly associated with thunderstorm asthma. A previous diagnosis of asthma and taking inhaled corticosteroid prevent medications may be protective. Staying indoors, with the windows closed, may also be protective.
Many questions remain, particularly around how thunderstorm asthma occurs, how events can be predicted and the best approaches for prevention and control.
The final report from the Victoria Inspector-General for Emergency Management relating to this event is available here.
Several publications are also available for more information:
Prof. Guy Marks (UNSW, Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, Liverpool Hospital) is a respiratory physician and respiratory and environmental epidemiologist. His research focuses on causes, risk factors and prevention of lung disease and monitoring disease burden and management practices.
He has pioneered work on measuring quality of life in people with asthma and described the importance of “thunderstorm asthma”.