Mounting cases of COVID-19 (and associated deaths), coupled with concern that the U.S. could experience a severe flu season this year, may have given some people the sense that “things just couldn’t get any worse” from a public health standpoint. Wrong. A study published in the journal Environment International reports a link between intense wildfire seasons—like the one going on right now in western U.S. states right now—and higher incidence of influenza. Based on study of wildfire and flu seasons over a 10-year period in Montana, the researchers reported that the number of people who contracted the flu after a severe fire season increased more than threefold, from an average of 3,000 to 10,000. The study did not address causality, but the authors conjectured that the lower air quality compromises the immune system of area residents, leaving them more susceptible to viral infection. Urgent care operators in areas prone to wildfires should track activity and be prepared.
Wildfires Turn Up the Heat on Efforts to Slow COVID-19 and Prevent a Severe Flu Season