Coronavirus has killed 103 British patients who tested positive for COVID-19. With the number of deaths likely to increase, could where you live impact your chances of surviving this global pandemic?
Structurally similar to SARS, SARS-CoV-2 (the name of the virus that causes the disease COVID-19) looks like a crown under a microscope.
Published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health, scientists analysed the link between the number of deaths caused by SARS and levels of air pollution.
The researchers said: “Our studies demonstrated a positive association between air pollution and SARS case fatality.”
A member of the environmental health committee of the European Respiratory Society, Sara De Matteis, said: “Patients with chronic lung and heart conditions caused or worsened by long-term exposure to air pollution are less able to fight off lung infections and more likely to die.
“This is likely also the case for COVID-19. By lowering air pollution levels we can help the most vulnerable in their fight against this and any possible future pandemics.”
With major cities across the world grinding to a halt, has this had an impact on pollution levels?
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have recorded a dramatic drop in nitrogen dioxide levels over China since the coronavirus quarantine.
“This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off, over such a wide area, for a specific event,” said Fei Liu, an air quality researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is a gaseous air pollutant, that the committee on the medical effects of air pollutants, has said to have adverse effects on a person’s health – and this includes reducing life expectancy.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirm that NO2 can “irritate airways in the human respiratory system”.
The major cause of NO2 emissions comes from burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas), including motor vehicle exhausts.
One positive effect of this global pandemic is that research is showing how it’s helping to reduce pollution levels in cities across the world.
But, this does mean that people who live in cities are more likely to suffer deadly consequences from COVID-19 than somebody who lives in the countryside.
However, it’s important to note that deadly consequences of COVID-19 is much more likely in those people over the age of 70 who suffer from underlying health conditions.
Unfortunately, exposure to pollutants – such as NO2 – increases a person’s risk of developing underlying health conditions in the first place.
Aaron Bernstein, at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, said: “It’s very likely that people who are exposed to more air pollution are going to fare worse if infected with [COVID-19] than those who are breathing cleaner air.”
In this sensitive time, protect yourself from catching the virus by frequently washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds each time.
Keep your distance from others (at least two meters) and limit your exposure to others by only using transport for essential purposes.
It’s only a matter of time when London will be the next major city undergoing lockdown.
While you’re limiting your exposure to air pollutants – especially if you reside in London – make sure you’re not breathing in harmful air indoors.
Cigarette smoke is full of carbon monoxide, as is wood-burning heaters.
Carbon monoxide reduces the amount of oxygen reaching the body’s organs and tissues.
Don’t put yourself at risk, don’t burn wood fires and don’t smoke. They could contribute to further complications if you contract COVID-19.