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Smoke from Wildfires May Increase Virus Risk, Doctors Say

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A dense smoke layer from dozens of raging wildfires is darkening the skies and fouling the air along much of the West Coast.

And it's expected to hover in the region at least through the weekend.

Dr. Afif El-Hasan is an American Lung Association spokesman who also an expert in pediatric asthma and lung at Kaiser Permanente in California. He says the wildfire pollution can leave people more susceptible to viruses, like the flu and COVID-19.

"These particles in the air, the pollution, it weakens the lungs' defenses, because it irritates the lungs," he said. "We have increased secretions in our lungs, in our upper airways. It can make it easier to get ill from a virus or other type of infection."

Eerie orange and red skies across California, Oregon and Washington had mainly turned gray thanks to stronger winds coming in from the Pacific Ocean that helped to disperse thick smoke that acted as a filter scattering blue light and only allowed yellow, orange and red light to reach the ground.

But as the wind scattered the smoke and a layer of air blocking it from reaching the ground started dissipating Thursday, smoke particles began mixing with ground-level air worsening air quality in much of California and parts of Oregon where wildfires are raging.

Satellite photos Thursday showed a towering band of smoke hovering along the Pacific coast.

Air quality warnings also were issued throughout the Pacific Northwest, and people in communities from southern Oregon to north of Seattle reported hazy skies and choking smoke.

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