The wildfires battering the landscape, homes and businesses of southern California may also take a toll on the health of the state’s residents, said Dr. Manny Alvarez, FOXNews.com managing editor of health.
The smoke, dust and ash choking the atmosphere across the southern portion of the state are heading north and could cause eye, nose and throat irritation, as well as widespread respiratory problems for residents.
“I just spoke to a couple of people in California, who are not in southern California, but they can smell the smoke in the air,” Alvarez said. “People have told me that when they get into their cars, it smells as though someone’s been smoking in there. This tells me that the smoke is directly affecting the air quality in California. Smoke is an irritating factor for people with asthma and other chronic lung diseases so this is something that will have to be monitored as time goes by.”
The California Department of Public Health issued an alert Tuesday advising those living near the areas affected by the fires to stay indoors. It also advised residents to use air conditioning for cooling purposes. Meanwhile, organizations are canceling all outdoor activities due to smoke irritation concerns.
Alvarez said the reports of hospital closings and hospital overcrowdings are also disturbing.
“For hospitals that may be in the line of the fires, critical medical records may be destroyed, which is one reason why people should always back-up their medical records like they do their hard drives,” he said. “Also, as hospitals get overcrowded and clerical, nursing and other staff become overworked, the chance for medical errors increases.”
At least a quarter of a million people have been evacuated from homes, hospitals, nursing homes, businesses and prisons, and two people have died, according to published reports. It’s estimated that at least 600 homes and 100 businesses have been destroyed across an area larger than New York City.
As many as 10,000 residents have been evacuated to San Diego’s Qualcomm stadium, while others are gathered at schools, fair grounds and community centers. Authorities are scrambling to bring in food and other supplies to those in need.
“One of the main concerns with having to evacuate homes, beyond the mental health aspect that stems from displacement and potentially losing everything you own, is that people leave behind medication and prescriptions that they need to function on a day-to-day basis,” said Alvarez. “We saw that with Katrina and it is something that could really impact the well-being of the people in those shelters.”