So why is the epidemic spreading so quickly in New York? Could it be air pollution?
We know, especially from research into the severe air pollution in China that the particles in smog carry pathogenic microbes, including both bacteria and viruses (Inhalable Microorganisms in Beijing’s PM2.5 and PM10 Pollutants during a Severe Smog Event).
This is happening in all Chinese cities but depends on a number of factors including the size of the particles. But it seems to be worse with PM2.5, the smallest and most dangerous of the particles since they can enter the blood stream via the lungs. (Effect of air pollution on the total bacteria and pathogenic bacteria in different sizes of particulate matter).
Levels of PM 2.5 in New York are no way near the sometimes astronomical levels in China but they are still high by US standards (New York Among Most Polluted Cities In the U.S., Analysis Shows) with more than 200 days in 2018 when air quality was unhealthy for children, the elderly and sick.
Italian cities in the north of the country have very high levels of air pollution because of high concentrations of industry and they are experiencing the worst effects of the coronavirus epidemic (These 25 cities have the worst air quality in Italy). Isn’t that telling us something important.
Wuhan and Hubei have, by US standards, dangerously high levels or air pollution. So that’s one factor for sure in the health and epidemiological problems they have experienced there.
Here’s what I suspect is going on. When people get coronavirus, they breathe and sneeze the coronavirus particles into the air. There they are carried by particles of air pollution which are then breathed in by others. These other people might even be some distance away from them so of course they are not aware it is happening. Even if they are socially distanced, they can still get infected in this way.
The higher the density of people the higher the transmission rate. The higher the level of pollution also the higher the transmission rate. That’s not only because of the number of people. It’s because with higher pollution density, there is less penetration of sunlight which can kill germs, so sunlight does not kill as many of the viruses and other pathogens. So, the higher the pollution the higher the pathogen count because there’s less sunlight to kill the germs.
New York is, like all cities, a bad place to be if you want to escape an epidemic of this nature. High population density, lots of air pollution, high level of communal activity. When you have a virus like this, the biggest cities are generally a bad place to be. Just like Wuhan was.
You might disagree on the grounds that air pollution in New York has just dropped precipitouslyin recent days due to the slowdown in social activity. But remember, the people who are showing up now at hospitals were probably infected several weeks ago when air pollution in New York was the same as usual. That bodes well for the time when the epidemic is under control. That clearly isn’t the case now.
Moving to the boonies anyone?
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