Exposure to California Wildfires Linked to Spike in COVID-19 Cases, Study Suggests

Smog from wildfireSmog from wildfire
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A study done in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology suggested that the increase in COVID-19 cases in Reno and surrounding areas is connected to California wildfires exposure.

A recent study suggests that exposure to the smoke from wildfires can increase chances of contracting COVID-19. 

PM2.5 — particles measuring 2.5 µm or smaller — which can be found in smoke, increases susceptibility to respiratory viruses, causes airway inflammation, and boosts the spread and survival of bacterial, fungal and viral bioaerosols, according to the recent study from the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology.

This includes bioaerosols containing the virus causing COVID-19.

Researchers from the Desert Research Institute gathered data from the EPA’s database, air quality data from Reno and Sparks, weather reports from a local station, and patient data from Renown Health, a local health system. 

“Exposure to wildfire PM2.5 accounted for an additional 178 positive COVID-19 cases at Renown alone...” the researchers wrote in the study.

“We found a large increase in the SARS-CoV-2 test positivity rate at Renown during periods of elevated PM2.5 from wildfires. These results, although based on observational data with their inherent limitations, lend credence to earlier predictions that wildfire smoke would exacerbate the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The study had limitations, as it did not account for differences in income, according to the New York Post.

“Our findings also bolster arguments that PM2.5 from other sources, such as vehicle traffic or industry, increases susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2.” the authors wrote.

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