Air pollution season is set to worsen COVID-19 in India
The country is already reeling under a record number of infections which is spiralling at an alarming rate. This is only going to get worse with pollution.
India is now the second-worst coronavirus affected country in the world, overtaking Brazil and only two million infections behind the number one spot. Even as the infections spiral alarmingly, scientists fear another external factor to make things worse. Air pollution.
The monsoon season, which has been removing pollutants from the air thanks to the rain and wind, is passing us by and soon much of northern India is set to be engulfed by the annual smog from stubble burning and factories that are restarting after weeks of lockdown. This factor could mean all the difference between a mild infection and an acute one that requires intensive care.
A scientific paper published this month says that even short-lived air pollution makes the immune system less responsive to infections. Air pollution can alter lung cells to increase the number of SARS-CoV-2 receptors which makes it more likely for the virus to bind to receptors and cause the infection.
Meanwhile, long-term exposure to bad quality air has a detrimental effect on the lungs. It is known that those with chronic lung diseases are less able to cope with the virus than healthy people. The impact can be more severe and sometimes even fatal with this kind of co-morbidity. Other co-morbidities like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases are also linked to air pollution.
The virus can also spread more easily because pollution causes people to cough or sneeze and an infected person is much more likely to transmit the disease.
While the Indian government has issued an advisory about smokers being more susceptible to the virus, it hasnâ€™t taken to effort to establish the link between the damage caused by smoking and how it is similar to the effects of air pollution on the lungs.
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