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Wildfire smoke may raise the risk of COVID-19

A sky filled with dark smoke.

Aug. 6, 2021—Can wildfire smoke increase your risk of catching COVID-19? The answer to that question is particularly important if you live in an area prone to wildfires.

A recent study from Nevada found that positive coronavirus tests increased during the 2020 wildfire season. Here are some of the study's main findings—and ways you can help limit your exposure to wildfire smoke this year.

Smoky air meant more positive tests

Researchers tracked the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests between May and October 2020 at a hospital in Reno, Nevada. They also monitored the amount of smoke from wildfires that was in the air during this time. The study found that:

  • When there was a small increase in smoke, the test positivity rate increased by 6.3%.
  • Between August and October, smoke in the air was responsible for a 17.7% increase in cases.

Why might more smoke mean more COVID-19 cases?

Smoke particles are a kind of air pollution. Smoke can affect the lungs, making it harder for your body to fight off viruses like the coronavirus. It can also make the body's immune system less effective. During wildfire seasons, people also spend more time in indoor public places, like schools or restaurants. This may increase the spread of COVID-19.

How can I reduce my exposure to wildfire smoke?

  • Be prepared. Get your COVID-19 vaccine to help protect yourself and others from the coronavirus. Stock up on supplies, such as food, in case you need to spend more time indoors during fire season.
  • Avoid going out when it's smoky. Stay indoors when the air is filled with smoke. If you have to go out, wear a KN95 mask that filters the air.
  • Check your outdoor air quality. Monitor the air quality where you are at
  • Manage your indoor air. If you can, use a portable air cleaner to remove smoke from the air in your home. You can also make a DIY box fan filter.
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