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Pollution may increase virus transmissibility, say experts

Air pollution may increase transmissibility of the novel coronavirus making people more vulnerable to the disease and aggravating the COVID-19 situation, experts have said, while warning that those who have had the infection in the past may also have to face new challenges.

With winters approaching and easing of the coronavirus-induced lockdown, Delhi-NCR is bracing for months of poor air quality. The national capital’s air quality was in the ‘poor’ category on Sunday morning.

According to doctors, respiratory illnesses like viral influenza increase with a spike in pollution levels as poor air quality leads to inflammation in the lungs making it more vulnerable for the virus to penetrate.

“This year, we have COVID-19. Like the common cold, the transmission of this virus is expected to increase with a rise in pollution levels. We may see a further surge in cases.

“It would be a taxing time for testing centres as they have to cater to people with coronavirus and also non-COVID patients with similar symptoms,” Dr Neeraj Nischal, an associate professor in the Department of Medicine at AIIMS, told PTI. Experts feel the worst-affected would be people in the lower socioeconomic class with no access to masks and also vulnerable to additional risk factors such as chulla smoke.

“Transmission apart, the presentation of COVID-19 like other viral respiratory illnesses will be more severe in high-pollution areas. This will burden hospitals as more patients become symptomatic, requiring admission,” Dr Nischal said. According to Dr Neeraj Gupta, a professor in the Department of Pulmonary, Critical care and Sleep medicine at Safdarjung Hospital, mortality has been linked with population density, the proximity of people and heavily industrialized or urbanised areas which have higher pollution levels.- PTI