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Wildfire smoke exposure contributed to an increase in COVID-19 cases, DRI scientists say

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Persistent wildfire smoke in northern Nevada contributed to an increase in COVID-19 cases at the end of the summer of 2020, according to a team of researchers based in Reno. They published their findings in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology this week.

Scientists at the Genomic Medicine Center of the Desert Institute (DRI), Washoe County Health District, and Lenaun Health have analyzed the relationship between the presence of particulate matter in the sky of Reno (Wildfire smoke is PM2.5) And the COVID-19 test positive rate for the same period.

From August 16th to October 10th, 2020, they found that wildfire smoke remaining in the air in the area was responsible for the 17.7% increase in the number of COVID-19 cases. .. Reno experienced a 43-day increase in PM2.5 during that period. This is the highest number of days in a metropolitan area in the region.

“Last year in Reno, we had a unique situation where we were exposed to wildfire smoke more often than in many other areas, including the Bay Area,” said the co-author of the study, Computer Science. Gaiel Hanan, a deputy research scientist, said. DRI. “We are located in mountain valleys that limit the spread of pollutants and in some cases increase the magnitude of exposure, so it is even more important to understand the effects of smoke on human health. . “

On July 14, 2021, smoke from the Beckworth Complex drifted east across Highway 395, north of Reno, Nevada.
On July 14, 2021, smoke from the Beckworth Complex drifted east across Highway 395, north of Reno, Nevada.
Image: Ty O’Neil / This is Reno

Luke Montrose, an assistant professor of community and environmental health at Boise State University, Potential toxicity of wildfire smoke In a recent essay for conversation.He said PM2.5 is used to make health recommendations “It defines the cutoff of particles that can travel deep into the lungs and cause the greatest damage.”

El Hanan said the study can use information to plan ahead to help people avoid smoke in the event of a wildfire that could cause a COVID-19 infection. He said it was valuable to the health authorities.

Daniel Kaiser, co-lead author of the study and assistant research scientist at DRI’s data sciences, said the information is now valuable to health authorities in northern Nevada.

“It’s important to know this because we are already facing the heavy smoke of wildfires. Beckworth Complex Fire And in the case of COVID-19 Rise again In Nevada and other parts of the western United States, “he said.

The full study, “SARS-CoV-2 test positive rate in Reno, Nevada: association with PM2.5 during the 2020 wildfire smoke event in the western United States,” is available from the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology. I will. :https://www.nature.com/articles/s41370-021-00366-w

Kristen Hackbarth is a freelance editor and communications expert with 20 years of communication experience in northern Nevada. Kristen graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in photography and a minor in journalism, and a master of science in management and leadership. In his spare time, he is a volunteer backpacking guide along the Tahoe Rim Trail, an avid home cook and bakery, cyclist, wife and stepmother.

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