Air pollution may increase transmissibility of the novel coronavirus making people more vulnerable to the disease and aggravating the COVID-19 situation, experts have said, while warning that those who have had the infection in the past may also have to face new challenges.
Here are five components of the story:
- With winters approaching and easing of the coronavirus-induced lockdown, Delhi-NCR is bracing for months of poor air quality. The national capital’s air quality was in the ‘poor’ category on Sunday morning.
- According to doctors, respiratory illnesses like viral influenza increase with a spike in pollution levels as poor air quality leads to inflammation in the lungs making it more vulnerable for the virus to penetrate.
- “This year, we have COVID-19. Like the common cold, the transmission of this virus is expected to increase with a rise in pollution levels. We may see a further surge in cases. It would be a taxing time for testing centres as they have to cater to people with coronavirus and also non-COVID patients with similar symptoms,” said Dr Neeraj Nischal, an associate professor in the Department of Medicine at AIIMS. Dr Vivek Nangia, principal director and head of pulmonology, Max Super Speciality Hospital in Delhi’s Saket said that for individuals belonging to the high-risk groups are advised to stay indoors or at least restrict their movement to bare essential activities outdoors.
- According to Dr Neeraj Gupta, a professor in the Department of Pulmonary, Critical care and Sleep medicine at Safdarjung Hospital, mortality has been linked with population density, the proximity of people and heavily industrialized or urbanised areas which have higher pollution levels. Experts also feel the worst-affected would be people in the lower socioeconomic class with no access to masks and also vulnerable to additional risk factors such as chulla smoke.
- These factors are likely to become more effective during the festive season and winters, particularly in north India where stubble burning is common and this affects air quality severely.