“Multiple studies have shown a correlation between higher levels of pollution in the air and greater spread and severity of Covid-19 cases,” said Dr. Brad Spellberg, chief medical officer of the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, citing several studies conducted in the United States, China and Italy.
“Some studies have also shown that exposure of lung tissue to pollution may increase susceptibility to viral infections.”
What’s the reason for this? Smoke from wildfires can irritate the lungs and cause inflammation that can affect the immune system, said Dr. Rekha Murthy, an infectious disease specialist at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. That inflammation can make people more at risk of lung infections.
“Whenever the lining of the lung or the airways become inflamed or damaged, it increases the potential for inhaled viral particles to take hold in the lungs and cause infection,” Murthy said.
There are also concerns that smoke-filled air will drive coronavirus-positive people indoors, CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen said. That, she said, could potentially increase the spread of the virus.
“We know being outdoors versus indoors reduces the rate of transmission … but now people are being told you have to go indoors because you don’t want to breathe in the air that could cause respiratory issues,” she said. “But you don’t want to be indoors with other individuals and have a higher rate of contracting Covid-19… so, it’s really a catch-22.”
To prevent the possible spread of coronavirus during the intense fire season, those remaining indoors due to poor air quality should stay away from anyone who is not in their immediate household, Wen said.
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