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Diwali firecrackers could be Covid superspreaders, warn doctors

Diwali firecrackers could be Covid superspreaders, warn doctors
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Diwali firecrackers could be Covid superspreaders, warn doctors

Highlights

Diwali is expected to be a low-key affair this time due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Doctors state that the smoke emitted from the firecrackers could be carriers of the virus.

Diwali is expected to be a low-key affair this time due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Doctors state that the smoke emitted from the firecrackers could be carriers of the virus.

Dr Sachin D, Consultant – Pulmonology, Manipal Hospitals, Old Airport Road explains, "Firecrackers are known to emit a lot of smoke and pollutants which can get suspended in cool air for longer periods and act as carriers for spreading airborne Covid 19 infection. The smog created by burning firecrackers contains a lot of toxic chemicals like nitrogen dioxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and other volatile organic compounds that are toxic to healthy lungs and might be fatal to patients with respiratory disease including coronavirus."

Dr. Srivatsa Lokeshwaran, Consultant, Interventional Pulmonology, Aster CMI Hospital also states that there is indeed a chance that crackers and other fireworks that emanate a lot of fumes and dust will have an impact on the air quality which in turn will affect the lungs of those people who are already suffering from Covid, COPD, and asthma.

"These patients already have swollen and very sensitive lungs and hence bursting of crackers can further affect their lungs. In such a scenario, people should refrain from bursting crackers this year as it can also generate Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) which can increase the transmission of the Covid-19 virus," he warns.

Explaining further, Lokeshwaran adds, "Fireworks contain a range of substances which are pollutants and detrimental to the air quality. The substances include carbon, sulphur in addition to a range of substances like arsenic, manganese etc. which are highly irritant to the airways and the lungs. There is a well-established relationship between ambient air pollution and worsening of respiratory symptoms like exacerbation of asthma, COPD, allergic rhinitis, lower respiratory tract infection and lung cancer. This can also increase the chances of misdiagnosis of these conditions as Covid-19 symptoms and can prevent them from receiving proper preventive measures and error free diagnosis that can lead to several complications among such patients."

Delving further the doctor says with winter season already setting in the northern parts of the country and with Covid danger still lurking, the coming months will be a double whammy for healthcare workers and the industry. "A triple whammy could be the congregation of people during the festive period and their reluctance to follow the social distancing norms. In order to prevent such scenarios from happening, people need to act responsibly during the festive season and say 'NO' to the crackers this year. We are also observing that many children are now stepping out in public spaces without wearing masks. People need to understand that the Covid-19 pandemic is here to stay until a vaccine is developed and hence, this time they should not take their kids to public spaces and should understand that maintaining social distancing, cleaning hands with hand sanitizer and face mask, will continue to be our weapon to fight Covid-19."

The sale of firecrackers is banned in Rajasthan and Odisha. Sachin opines that tackling the problem which can be created by firecrackers especially during this pandemic should be at both public and government levels.

"People should refrain from bursting firecrackers and choose health over momentary fun. At the government level, there should be restrictions on the sale and purchase of such items," Sachin added.

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