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How Air Pollution Makes The Coronavirus So Much More Dangerous

The Huffington Post interviewed Dr. Zuo-Feng Zhang, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health epidemiologist and associate dean for research, on the impact air pollution may have on susceptibility to the current coronavirus. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

As the SARS virus tore through China in 2003, Zuo-Feng Zhang wondered whether the country’s notoriously polluted air might be amplifying its dangers. The answer he and his scientific colleagues found feels frighteningly relevant now, not just for China, but all across a world where SARS’ coronavirus cousin is bearing down on billions of people who already live with unhealthy air.

Sifting through data from five different regions, Zhang’s team concluded that SARS patients living in the most polluted places were twice as likely to die from the disease as those in the cleanest areas.

“We found a very strong correlation between air pollution and deaths” from the virus, said Zhang, an epidemiologist at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health. The effect held not just for pollution levels at the time of the outbreak, but for levels over the previous two years as well, indicating prior exposure had likely compromised people’s ability to fight off the illness.