Thunderstorm asthma outbreak of November 2016: a natural disaster requiring planning

Steven J Lindstrom, Jeremy D Silver, Michael F Sutherland, Andrew BA Treloar, Ed Newbigin, Christine F McDonald and Jo A Douglass
Med J Aust 2017; 207 (6): . || doi: 10.5694/mja17.00285
Published online: 18 September 2017

Learning from a tragedy to increase public awareness and improve responses in future thunderstorm asthma events

Thunderstorm asthma is the occurrence of acute asthma either during or immediately after a thunderstorm and it is often characterised by a surge in emergency asthma presentations. The epidemic of thunderstorm asthma in Melbourne, Australia, on 21 November 2016 was the most extreme such event ever worldwide, with nine fatalities currently the subject of a coronial inquiry.1,2 Hospitals and ambulance services were placed under record pressure, and supplies of reliever medications were exhausted at some health services.1 Key tasks for the future are to predict the thunderstorms most likely to lead to asthma outbreaks and to define how best to respond. Further research to better anticipate these outbreaks is crucial and planning for the inevitable recurrence must occur at patient, institutional and state-wide levels.

  • Steven J Lindstrom1,0
  • Jeremy D Silver2,0
  • Michael F Sutherland1
  • Andrew BA Treloar3
  • Ed Newbigin2
  • Christine F McDonald1,2
  • Jo A Douglass2,4

  • 1 Austin Health, Melbourne, VIC
  • 2 University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC
  • 3 NSW Regional Office, Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Sydney, NSW
  • 4 Royal Melbourne Hospital, Melbourne, VIC


We thank Edwin Lampugnani (University of Melbourne) for kindly supplying the image in . Jeremy Silver's work was funded by the MacKenzie Postdoctoral Fellowship scheme at the University of Melbourne.

Competing interests:

In the past 5 years, Jo Douglass has received honoraria for educational presentations from AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Stallergenes Greer, Novartis, Alphapharm, Shire, Mundipharma and Seqirus; has sat on advisory boards for Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, Astra-Zeneca, Pieris, Stallergenes Greer and Seqirus; and has undertaken contracted and investigator-initiated research for GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, AstraZeneca and Sanofi-Aventis. Jeremy Silver and Ed Newbigin are investigators on the National Medical and Health Research Council PBH grant 1116107, which partners with Stallergenes Greer. Christine McDonald has received honoraria for education presentations or advisory board participation from GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and Pfizer.


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