Wildfires might have played a role in the waves seen during the COVID-19 pandemic last year, a new study suggests.
Researchers from Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health found that lung damage caused by inhalation of tiny particles from the blazes could increase the likelihood to contract Covid.
The damage could also make someone more likely to suffer a severe case of the virus, or even die.
The team found an increase of new cases of around 12 percent, and a nine percent increase of deaths about a month after the wildfires.
This means that two separate crises America is facing may be far more intertwined than previously believed.
Researchers used data from 133 counties in California, Oregon and Washington from 2020 for the study, published in Science Advances on Friday.
They looked at days with high levels of PM2.5, tiny particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs, which are often linked to wildfires.
Results showed an increase of around 12 percent in COVID-19 cases and nine percent in deaths in the 28 days following high levels of PM2.5.
Whitman, Washington, in the southeastern part of the state, was hit the hardest with cases, suffering a 71.6 percent increase in cases due to wildfires.