Kolkata: Fireworks may pose a major health risk to Covid-survivors in Bengal who are still recuperating from residual lung ailments, health experts have warned. High levels of air pollution can trigger fresh lung infections and if the air quality deteriorates like previous years, mortality rate may climb, said those who have been closely following the pandemic and Covid patients as frontline health workers.
The pandemic has taken a massive toll on the health of those who have survived Covid, particularly on their respiratory system. “A large number of Covid winners are still recovering from persistent respiratory distress. For many, the recovery is very gradual. Since Diwali is in mid-November, pollutants will hang low at a breathable height for a longer duration due to temperature inversion. This is risky. The fireworks will be a recipe for disaster for both Covid patients and survivors,” said Arup Haldar, a consultant pulmonologist with Woodlands and Columbia Asia Hospitals.
Since pollutants during Diwali include particulate matters, of heavy metals and noxious fumes apart from the regular vehicular emission, emission from eateries and waste burning, the pollutant loads are of far higher dimensions. “A large number of Covid-recovered patients are still in a compromised state. Many may have developed lung fibrosis. They will breathe the air laden with dangerous elements. So, people must collectively to show restraint for their fellow citizens,” said Sushmita Roy Chowdhury, consultant pulmonologist with Apollo Gleneagles. Patients who have had even mild infection as lung inflammation caused by the virus could take as long as 12 weeks to settle, she observed.
The fear of aerosols from the fireworks may transmit the Covid virus more rapidly, added Dr Raja Dhar, pulmonologist with Fortis Anandapur. “There can be long chain effects of heightened viral density. If Covid comes with other lung infections, the risk will be always of higher proportion. Compliance to the court order is not an option but a life-and-death issue for the citizens,” he added.
A government health official said: “So far, a majority of Covid patients have been asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic. Only a few have needed ICU or ventilators. But higher levels of pollution might alter it upside down. Because of pollution-driven complications, if more patients require advanced support system, there will be a big demand-supply mismatch, leading to a collapse of the health system.”
Experts said poisonous gases, sulphur, carbon and other chemicals from firecrackers that pollute the air can exacerbate breathing problems and coughing and even cause death. This is particularly dangerous for the elderly and children.