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Wildfire smoke covers Las Vegas valley, increases risk of contracting coronavirus

Posted at 5:28 AM, Aug 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-08 11:21:41-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Wildfire smoke from Northern California and Oregon blanketed the Las Vegas valley with another round of unhealthy air Sunday at the same time a deadly respiratory virus is spiking in the region.

Test positivity for COVID is currently approaching 16%, according to the Southern Nevada Health District.

A report from the Desert Research Institute says wildfire smoke can increase the risk of contracting the coronavirus as more people cough and sneeze spreading particulates into the air.

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Harvard researchers also indicated that a small increase in air pollution can increase the risk of dying from COVID by 8%.

Dr. Daliah Wachs says heavy smoke can irritate the lungs and worsen the effects of many respiratory issues.

"Pollution irritates the lungs," she said. "So, if you have lung irritation, that allows you to be more vulnerable to lung illnesses whether it's from COVID-19, pneumonia or anything else."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says cloth masks can block droplets that carry the coronavirus, but they do little to protect people from the tiny particles carried in wildfire smoke.

The CDC reports N95 or KN95 masks block particles from wildfire smoke but advised people against wearing them in non-medical situations as they should be reserved for health care workers.

Experts say to stay indoors with the windows and doors closed and run the air conditioner to filter the air.

People should also change their home air filters to avoid pushing dirty air into a sealed home.