Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease with acute exacerbation
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease with acute exacerbation, henceforth referred to as COPD, has been found to increase in association with air pollution from bushfire smoke (see Australian bushfires 2019–20: exploring the short-term health impacts); therefore, while COPD was included within all respiratory conditions, hospitalisations with a principal diagnosis of COPD with acute exacerbation (ICD-10-AM code J44.1) were also analysed separately. The current chapter presents the hospitalisation rate of COPD for all ages. While COPD can be reported in younger age groups, the diagnosis of the condition is more certain for those aged 45 and over.
Nationally, compared with the previous 5-year average, the hospitalisation rate for COPD increased in the period between the end of October 2019 and mid-February 2020. The greatest increases coincided with periods of bushfire activity. The largest increase was 30% in the week beginning 1 December 2019—2.0 per 100,000 persons (about 510 hospitalisations), compared with the previous 5-year average of 1.6 per 100,000 (an average of about 375 hospitalisations).
To explore national data and data for states and territories, see interactive data visualisations below (for data tables see Supplementary table S1).
Admitted patient hospitalisation rate, by jurisdiction, COPD (ICD-10-AM code J44.1), weeks in 2019–20 bushfire season relative to previous 5-year average
This combined chart shows the crude rate of admitted patient hospitalisations (per 100,000 persons) for Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) with acute exacerbation for the periods 2019–20 and the previous 5-year average, and the percentage change in crude rate between the two periods. Data are presented by jurisdiction and by week, for the period 1 September to 29 February/1 March, which correspond to the bushfire season. The chart shows that nationally, compared with the previous 5-year average, the hospitalisation rate increased in the period between the end of October 2019 and mid-February 2020. There were also variations at the jurisdictional level.
At the state and territory level, examples of large increases in the hospitalisation rate for COPD coinciding with periods of significant fire activity or air pollution include:
- a 57% increase in the week beginning 5 January 2020 for New South Wales residents—2.3 per 100,000 persons (about 185 hospitalisations), compared with an average of 1.4 per 100,000 in the previous 5-year period (an average of about 110 hospitalisations)
- a 50% increase in the week beginning 5 January 2020 for Victorian residents—2.0 per 100,000 persons (130 hospitalisations), compared with an average of 1.3 per 100,000 in the previous 5-year period (an average of 81 hospitalisations).
Because the numbers of COPD hospitalisations at the level of Statistical Area Level 4 (SA4) were generally small, data are not presented at this level.
For data by Statistical Area Level 4 (SA4), see Supplementary table S2.