First asthma warning issued for Victoria after deadly thunderstorm epidemic

Dr Mark Hotu with Asthma suferer Angelique Harkins. Photo: Jason South

Dr Mark Hotu with Asthma suferer Angelique Harkins. Photo: Jason South

The first public asthma warning has been issued after Melbourne suffered the worst-known thunderstorm-induced epidemic in global history.

Eight people are dead after last week's crisis, with authorities under pressure to explain whether they did enough to warn the public about the asthma disaster as it unfolded.

Hospitals across the city were inundated with more than 8000 patients with respiratory problems and many people reported that, on the night of the outbreak, they had to wait more than half an hour for an ambulance to arrive.

Health Minister Jill Hennessy has said the asthma epidemic put a similar amount of strain on the health system as 150 bombs detonating across Melbourne.

Four of the eight people who died in last week's thunderstorm asthma epidemic: Hope Carnevali (left), Omar Moujalled, Apollo Papadopoulos, and Clarence Leo. Photo: Supplied

Four of the eight people who died in last week's thunderstorm asthma epidemic: Hope Carnevali (left), Omar Moujalled, Apollo Papadopoulos, and Clarence Leo. Photo: Supplied

On Wednesday, chief health officer Charles Guest issued a public asthma warning ahead of possible thunderstorms across Gippsland and parts of north-east Victoria.

Professor Guest said people who suffer from asthma should always carry their inhaler in case of a storm.

"People with a history of asthma, hay fever or allergies are at particular risk of asthma symptoms," he said.

"When there is a thunderstorm or severe weather warning in spring or summer, staying indoors with windows closed and in air-conditioned areas will reduce exposure to pollen."

Anyone experiencing wheezing, tightness in the chest and difficulty breathing should call triple-0.

graph