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CNN International: Doctors Warn Unhealthy Air Quality Could Make People More Susceptible to COVID-19

CNN International anchor Rosemary Church recently interviewed infectious disease specialist Rekha Murthy, MD, vice president of medical affairs and associate chief medical officer at Cedars-Sinai, about how the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive outbreak of wildfires on the West Coast have collided to create a public health crisis.

"The wildfires, which can carry very fine particles miles and miles away from where the fires are even located, can result in significant risk to not only those who are the most vulnerable to respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, but even healthy individuals," Murthy told Church.

The fine particles in smoke can bypass the lungs and the upper respiratory airway's natural defense against foreign objects. Then the particles can attach themselves to the airway and the lungs, triggering an inflammatory response, Murthy explained.

In that weakened state, everyone becomes more susceptible to viral illnesses, such as COVID-19, which can be caused by the inhalation of respiratory droplets that contain the novel coronavirus.

But the main way people can protect themselves from smoke inhalation – staying indoors – also is a Catch-22: The likelihood of spreading COVID-19 increases if people from multiple households must share close quarters.

"We can't let our guard down," Murthy told Church. She said people must avoid the toxic air while minimizing their risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus. It's more important than ever to keep surfaces clean, practice hand hygiene, and maintain physical distancing wherever possible.

"It might even necessitate wearing masks indoors if you are among people who are not your household contacts or if you're company," Murthy said. "Those are really important."

Click here to watch the complete interview with Rosemary Church and CNN International.