Viruses thrive in heat and dust of dry summer days

Viruses thrive in heat and dust of dry summer days


Viral outbreaks and air pollution are on the rise across the metropolis as the onset of summer leaves the cityscape dry in sweltering heat.

Doctors reported an increase in patients with fevers, coughs and colds, which are partly attributable to viral outbreaks, and partly to the effects of peaking air pollution due to seasonal dryness.

Dr Srivatsa Lokeshwaran, a Bengaluru-based pulmonologist, said the level of particulates in the city is high at the moment, because of both ambient and indoor pollution sources. According to the doctor, the increase in viral outbreaks has caught medical professionals by surprise, considering such outbreaks are usually common during the monsoons and winter.

“We think that there might be some mutant strains of viruses, such as H1N1 and influenza, which are continuing their spread into the summer, which is quite surprising,” Dr Lokeshwaran said, adding that the multitude of digging-up works in the city, including road repairs and building construction, is not helping either.

Cement fumes and dust, in addition to the deteriorating air quality across the city, are being blamed for triggering widespread pulmonological conditions and fevers.

“On a daily basis, our out-patient wards are witnessing 40-50% patients reporting high-grade fevers, coughs and colds,” said Dr Chetan Ginigeri, a paediatrician at Aster CMI Hospital. An analysis had revealed that some of the infections in children are being caused by excessive air pollution and construction dust being propelled into homes, added Dr Ginigeri.

“Parents are advised to avoid dry mopping and dusting, and instead use wet mopping and vacuuming which will help families in restricting the spread of infections and viruses at homes,” Dr Ginigeri explained.

According to the data from the Delhi-based website, which monitors air pollution levels across several cities in the country, Bengaluru runs the increased risk of being a heavily polluted city within the next 11 years.

The current city trend in PM 2.5 concentrations amounts to a figure of over 36.5 micrograms per cubic metre of air (or ug/m3), well below the national standard of 40 ug/m3, but higher than the World Health Organization’s (WHO) standard of 10 ug/m3.

However, the gamut of pollution emissions in the city — industrial smoke, vehicle fumes, bonfires, residential indoor pollution — amounted to 31,200 tons of PM 2.5 particulate matter in 2015. This is projected to rise to 48,150 tonnes by 2030.