New study finds wildfire smoke could increase COVID-19 risk

15 July 2021

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RENO, Nev. (KLAS) — Breathing in wildfire smoke could increase your risk of contracting COVID-19, according to a new study from the Center for Genomic Medicine at the Desert Research Institute (DRI) in Reno, Nevada.

Researchers found a nearly 18% rise in COVID cases after a wildfire smoke event in Reno in 2020.

“Our results showed a substantial increase in the COVID-19 positivity rate in Reno during a time when we were affected by heavy wildfire smoke from California wildfires,” said Daniel Kiser, M.S., co-lead author of the study and assistant research scientist of data science at DRI, in a news release.

They say the findings are significant now because northern California wildfires are already blowing a lot of smoke in the Reno area, and cases are up in Nevada and the Western U.S.

“We would love public health officials across the U.S. to be a lot more aware of this because there are things we can do, in terms of public preparedness in the community, to allow people to escape smoke during wildfire events,” wrote Dr. Gai Elhanan, co-lead author of the study and associate research scientist of computer science at DRI in the release.

To read the full study, click here.

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