Status:
Resolved
Health alert:
140003
Date Issued:
17 Feb 2014 (Update from 13 February 2014)
Issued by:
Dr Rosemary Lester, Chief Health Officer, Victoria
Issued to:
Local government authorities, health and aged sector, government departments and agencies, service providers and community groups.

Key messages

  • The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has issued a high level smoke alert for Latrobe Valley and other areas of Gippsland for Monday 17 February. This smoke is resulting from bushfire activity. 
  • High levels of smoke can aggravate existing heart or lung conditions and cause irritated eyes, coughing or wheezing. Health professionals should note the predicted smoky conditions and the potential impact on their at risk patients. 
  • These conditions are expected to continue in parts of the Latrobe Valley for at least the remainder of this week. The wind and weather will determine the areas to be effected.
  • Air quality forecasts are available on the EPA website

What is the issue?

Bushfire smoke is a mixture of different-sized particles, water vapour and gases, including carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

The larger particles which are visible to the eye contribute to the visible haze when a fire is burning. They are generally too large to be breathed deeply into the lungs but can irritate the nose and throat. Finer microscopic particles and gases are small enough to be breathed deep into the lungs and can cause health effects.

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has issued a high level smoke alert for LaTrobe Valley and other areas of Gippsland for Monday 17 February. This smoke is resulting from bushfire activity. Residents are likely to experience visibility of less than 10 kilometres due to high particle concentrations in the air.

General Practitioners in the Latrobe Valley are likely to see an increase in presentations and calls from at risk patients concerned about the health impacts of smoke. This Alert provides links to resources on prevention to share with those patients.

Who is at risk?

Children, the elderly, pregnant women, smokers and people with pre-existing illnesses such as heart or lung conditions (including asthma) are more sensitive to the effects of breathing in fine particles. Symptoms may worsen and include wheezing, chest tightness and difficulty breathing.

Prevention

Anyone with a heart or lung condition should follow the treatment plan advised by their doctor and keep at least five days supply of medication on hand. People with asthma should follow their personal asthma plan.

Everyone, but particularly those at high risk, should avoid prolonged or heavy physical activity outdoors and keep informed of fire and smoke activity in their immediate area.

Those with symptoms such as wheezing, chest tightness and difficulty breathing should seek medical advice promptly. Patients in at risk groups should be advised to consider a break away from areas with high smoke.