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News briefs

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Hidden risk population for thunderstorm asthma

Research presented at the Thoracic Society for Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ) Annual Scientific Meeting in Canberra last month identified “a potentially hidden and significant population susceptible to thunderstorm asthma”. “This is a wake-up call for all of Australia, but particularly Victoria as it prepares for its next pollen season,” said Professor Peter Gibson, president of TSANZ. “Many more people than previously thought are at risk of sudden, unforeseen asthma attack. It is essential that we invest more research into this phenomenon and educate our health services and public to take preventative and preparedness measures.” Nine people died in Victoria late last year and over 8500 required emergency hospital care when a freak weather event combining high pollen count with hot winds and sudden downpour led to the release of thousands of tiny allergen particles triggering sudden and severe asthma attacks. Those most seriously affected were people who were unaware they were at risk of asthma and therefore had no medication to hand. In the study of over 500 health care workers, led by the Department of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine, Eastern Health, Victoria, almost half the respondents with asthma experienced symptoms during the thunderstorm event. Most took their own treatment, a few sought medical attention and one was hospitalised. More alarming was…