Researchers are looking for a link between air pollution and coronavirus deaths. WHO sends a warning

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Researchers are trying to determine if there is a link between the severity of Covid-19 disease or even the mortality rate and the degree of air pollution. A director of the World Health Organization says they have already started sending messages to countries or regions with very high levels of pollution, warning that Covid-19 mortality could increase, according to an article published in The Guardian.

Patients with severe forms of Covid-19 are more likely to have pre-existing respiratory or cardiovascular disease, and solid studies in recent decades show that there is a link between air pollution and heart and lung disease. So the question arises whether polluted air, which kills seven million people annually, is an accelerator for the spread of coronavirus, writes the British publication.

The overlap of high pollution areas, such as northern Italy, over the map of the places most affected by Covid-19 is obvious, and some preliminary studies indicate a link between the two. On the other hand, a link has already been established between the SARS epidemic of 2003 and the polluted air, writes The Guardian.

“We do not yet have evidence that the two are directly related, but we know that if you breathe polluted air you are more likely to be severely affected,” said Dr. Maria Neira, director of public health at the World Health Organization.

“We have started sending messages to countries where we are telling them that if they start having cases of Covid-19, they should strengthen their preparedness measures in cities with high pollution, because they could face high mortality.” , said the director of the WHO.

Air pollution can affect in three ways, studies show. The best understood is the high death rate among patients with heart or lung disease caused by air pollution. Polluting particles can also inflame the lungs, making it easier to install a virus. Finally, polluting particles can themselves be carriers, vectors of coronavirus transport.

The studies so far have not reached the final form of publication in scientific journals. For them to go through all the filters until publication, it usually takes between six months and two years. But these initial observations raise an issue that may play a serious role in understanding and combating the spread of coronavirus.

A study by a team at Harvard University found that air pollution is linked to an increased death rate from Covid-19. Another study that looked at data from Europe concluded that a high level of pollution could be “one of the most important contributors” to coronavirus deaths. In Italy, the coronavirus was discovered in polluted air samples taken by researchers, but it is not yet known if the virus was capable of infection.

However, researchers warn that probability is not evidence, and correlations are not causal.

Editor: B.P.

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