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Coronavirus: The factor that doubles the risk of admission to the ICU

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A study points to a modifiable risk factor that increases the risk of ICU admission for those with Covid-19 – What is it and how can we avoid it?

Long-term exposure to high levels of air pollution, especially particulate matter (PM2.5), appears to play a key role in the outcome of patients treated with Covid-19 infection, according to a large multicenter study presented at the annual European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID).

In fact, the higher the exposure, the greater the risk: for every minimal increase in long-term exposure to PM2.5, the chances of mechanical ventilation more than tripled and the chances of hospitalization in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) doubled.

Dr Anita Shallal of Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and her colleagues studied the relationship between air pollution and the severity of Covid-19 infection by analyzing data from 2,038 adults admitted to four major hospitals between March 12 and April 24, 2020.

Among the data evaluated were the place of residence of the patients and the levels of environmental pollution in the area of ​​residence. Particular emphasis was placed on the relationship between the course of Covid-19 infection and the patient’s history of exposure to microparticles (PM2.5), ozone-containing pigments, vehicle pollutants, hazardous waste and rubbish.

It was eventually found that men of African American descent who were obese or who had severe chronic underlying health problems were more likely to need mechanical respiratory support and ICU admission

The same was true for those living in areas with high levels of microparticles and pigments containing lead.

Even when factors that may play a role in the severity of Covid-19 infection, such as age, body mass index, and underlying health issues, male gender, obesity, and underlying disease were still predictors of death. 

Similarly, exposure to microparticle pollution was an independent prognostic indicator of mechanical ventilation and admission to the ICU, but did not increase the risk of death.

“Long-term exposure to air pollution may weaken the immune system, leading to increased vulnerability to viruses and more serious viral infections. Micro-particles may also be vehicles for transmitting viruses, thus increasing their spread. In any case, the issue must be studied in depth in order to take the necessary public health measures in the event of a pandemic “, notes Dr Shallal.

Image Credit: Getty

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