Mystery over why migrants are falling ill in Australia

There is mounting evidence that migrants who move to Australia from some non-western countries develop allergies and asthma which they didn’t experience prior to arriving.

However, those studying the issue have been unable to pinpoint the exact reason, but Fairfax reports researchers believe a number of factors could contribute, including coming into contact with new irritants or even dietary changes.

This week a study was presented at a coronial inquest into Melbourne’s freak asthma thunderstorm in 2016, which killed 10 and hospitalised about 1400.

The report found more than half of people admitted to intensive care during the event were not born in Australia.

Fairfax also reports that of those who went to emergency rooms nearly 40 per cent had Indian or Asian backgrounds.

Researchers believe a number of factors could contribute to allergies in migrants which they didn’t have prior to moving. Source: AAP

One of the study’s authors, Professor Francis Thien said: “People of Asian background coming to Australia, a very typical pattern is the first five years they are OK, between five and 10 years they start getting hay fever, and then they develop wheezing and asthma.”

After the storm hit Melbourne on November 21, 2016, about 1400 people were treated in hospital and 10, aged between 18 and 57, died from acute asthma attacks.

Seven of them were men and three were women, with six of them born in India or other parts of Asia.

AAP reported earlier this week that on that late-spring afternoon high pollen, strong winds, hot temperatures, air moisture and a cold front combined to trigger severe asthma attacks across the city.

Professor Jo Douglass, an allergy and respiratory specialist from Royal Melbourne Hospital, said many of the victims spent time outdoors before their deaths.

Professor Jo Douglass arriving at the Coroners Court in Melbourne, Monday. Source: AAP

She also said victims were overwhelmingly located in the west and north of Melbourne, and noted ethnic and demographic trends.

Prof Douglass said the asthma storm disproportionately affected people of Asian backgrounds, as is usually the case for these events.