Government seeks 'asthma epidemic' data

THE Department of Health has instructed public health directors to draw up lists of asthma cases and deaths in the recent unprecedented 'asthma epidemic'.

A department spokesman said that it needed to get a clear picture of the scale of the epidemic and what caused it.

At the same time, asthma experts have joined forces to try to make sense of the outbreak.

Dr Martyn Partridge, chest physician and chief medical adviser to the National Asthma Campaign, said that the hundreds who went to hospital at the height of the outbreak around 24 June were 'only the tip of the iceberg'.

He said: 'Many of these people were experiencing their first asthma attack and were mostly adults. They were not typical. This suggests to me that there was a much bigger number of people, including children who already suffer from asthma, who stayed at home or went to their GPs, or who treated themselves.'

He said that a full descriptive study of the event was now essential. 'Clearly the experts do not

all agree and there will be

disagreements if people start speculating without this information and begin to draw premature conclusions.'

The spate of cases began after thunderstorms in central and southern England on 24 June. Air pollution - especially from vehicle emissions - the storms, high pollen and fungal spore counts and high temperatures have all been implicated. What is not in dispute is that exceptionally high numbers of people with breathing difficulties were treated in casualty departments. Dr Partridge said two to eight cases a day would be normal in one unit in 24 hours.

'Hospitals were seeing 20, 40, 60, 80 and even, in one case, 100 cases in the same period.' In his own hospital, Whipps Cross, east London, 55 people attended the accident and emergency department in the evening and the following morning.

The number of people who died is not known.

The British Lung Foundation said the scale of the outbreak almost certainly meant pollution was a factor.

Dr John Moore-Gillon, an adviser to the foundation and consultant respiratory specialist at St Bartholomew's and Homerton hospitals in London, said: 'On the day that it happened pollution itself was not that terrible.

'But it's possible that air pollution had already primed people's lungs. It irritates them so that they are more sensitive.'

The Department of the Environment said it was 'not yet clear what role pollution played in it'. But the Government was funding research into the links between pollution and health and had set in motion consultations about ways of tackling pollution.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key Stage 1

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee