Coronavirus | Air pollution, cold a lethal pair for COVID, warn doctors

Following protocols crucial over next 10 days to contain spread.

Delhi along with three other northern States — Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan — are among the 10 States/UT which have reported 76% of the total new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours. Doctors meanwhile have warned that high levels of air pollution, exhausted medical staff and the stressed health infrastructure in these areas is making COVID-appropriate behaviour a “must-follow”.

Delhi (104), Punjab (23), Uttar Pradesh (21), Haryana (19) are among the states that have reported the highest number of COVID-deaths in the last 24 hours, as per data released by the Union Health Ministry on Friday.

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“Our public health behaviour over the next 8-10 days will be extremely crucial and could decide the fate of India’s COVID wave. Our healthcare workers are exhausted. The general public should avoid super-spreader events. The risks they (health care workers) endure far outweigh any urges to do otherwise. Celebrate sensibly. Give the medical staff reasons to keep fighting,” said Arvind Singh Soin, chairman of the Institute of Liver Transplantation and Regenerative Medicine, Medanta-The Medicity.

Across India, 547 COVID fatalities have been reported in the past 24 hours along with 44,878 new cases. Also total number of recoveries stands at 81,15,580 with 49,079 new discharges in the same time period.

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Warning that the seasonal north Indian winter smog is here and poor quality air causes inflammation in the lungs, making people more vulnerable to breathing-related ailments, Vivek Nangia, Principal Director and Head of Pulmonology at the Max Super Speciality Hospital in Saket in Delhi said: “We see a rise of about 15-20 % in the cases both in OPD and emergency due to respiratory and cardiac ailments.”

“Many people encounter acute exacerbations of their asthma and COPDs. This year the situation is compounded by the ongoing COVID pandemic. Poor associated allergic problems like nasal discharge/sneezing, headache, eye burning, sore throat etc. have also been observed, especially in children. This is also the time when the number of cases of Influenza, H1N1 and pneumonias rise due to change in weather conditions,” he added.

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Doctors said that due to low temperatures and increased air pollution, particulate matter remains suspended in the air for a longer period and this increases transmissibility of the novel coronavirus, making people more vulnerable to the disease.

“The second mechanism linking increased COVID-cases and mortality due to air pollution is that exposure to polluted air is known to cause inflammation and cellular damage, making it easy for the virus or any other pathogenic microbe to invade our lungs and also that this process of inflammation may suppress early immune response to infection, making an individual more susceptible,” Dr Nangia said.

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“It has been observed that in areas with poor quality air, not only do the number of people developing COVID increase but so does the death rate. With every 1 micron/cubic meter increase in the PM 2.5 particles, the mortality rate increases by 8%. A direct relationship exists between air pollution and COVID-19 infection. There is a positive association of PM2.5, PM10, CO, NO2 and O3 with COVID-19 confirmed cases observed,” he said.

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