Wildland Firefighter Exposure to Smoke and COVID-19: A New Risk on the Fire Line Public Deposited

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  • Wildland firefighters respond to wildfires throughout the United States and perform arduous work in remote locations. Due to congregate work and living settings, wildfire incidents can be an ideal environment for the transmission of infectious diseases. In this review, we examine how exposure to wildfire smoke may contribute to an increased likelihood of SARS-CoV-2 infection and severity of COVID-19 illness. Exposure to particulate matter (PM), a component of wildfire smoke, has been associated with oxidative stress and inflammatory responses in humans and laboratory settings, which increases the likelihood for adverse respiratory symptomology and pathology. In multiple epidemiological studies, wildfire smoke exposure is associated with acute lower respiratory infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Wildland firefighters may be at an increased risk for COVID-19 illness due to particle based transport of SARS cov-2 virus through PM transport of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and up-regulation of angiotensin-converting enzyme II, which SARS-CoV-2 virus depends on to gain entry into alveolar and vascular cells. Co-occurrence of SARS-CoV-2 infection and wildfire smoke inhalation may also increase risk for more severe COVID-19 outcomes such as cytokine release syndrome, hypotension, and acute respiratory distress syndrome. Current infection control measures include social distancing, masks, frequent cleaning and disinfecting, and daily screening for COVID-19 symptoms, which are very important to reduce infections and severe health outcomes. Exposure to smoke may provide an additional risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection and severity of outcomes during the current and possibly future fire seasons.

Date Issued
  • 2021
Academic Affiliation
Journal Title
Journal Volume
  • 760
Last Modified
  • 2023-01-10
Resource Type
Rights Statement
  • 1879-1026