california wildfire
A law enforcement officer watches flames launch into the air as fire continues to spread at the Bear fire in Oroville, California on September 9, 2020.
Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images
  • Doctors say that poor air quality, especially in places that are experiencing extreme wildfires, can cause an increase in coronavirus cases.
  • Dr. Brad Spellberg told Los Angeles local news that ” there is evidence that exposure of lungs to bad air quality can increase the protein in the virus.”
  • An infectious disease specialist told CNN that the smoke from wildfires could “irritate the lungs” and “affect the immune system.”
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As wildfires rage on in the US northwest — especially in places like San Francisco where smoke turned the sky orange— health officials warn that the pollution could cause a surge in coronavirus cases. 

“There is evidence that exposure of lungs to bad air quality can increase the protein in the virus that binds… the infection in the lungs, ” the chief medical officer at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, Dr. Brad Spellberg, told CBSLA

Dr. Spellberg said that studies show the link between air pollution and the effect it has on the virus, according to CNN

“Multiple studies have shown a correlation between higher levels of pollution in the air and greater spread and severity of Covid-19 cases,” Spellberg said,  the outlet reported.

CNN reported that infectious disease expert, Dr. Rekha Murthy, said that "smoke from wildfires can irritate the lungs and cause inflammation that can affect the immune system."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seeking protection in areas like air shelters and air spaces could help against wildfire smoke. The agency listed those who are most vulnerable to the risk of wildfire smoke during the era of the coronavirus which included minors, pregnant women, senior citizens, and people with underlying health concerns. 

There are nearly 6.5 million coronavirus cases in the US, according to data from John Hopkins COVID-19 dashboard. In California, where wildfires have destroyed 3 million acres of land, there are over 700,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of September 10 and 14,089 virus deaths. 

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