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JAM | Feb 12, 2024

CARPHA issues health alert as Saharan dust blankets region

Vanassa McKenzie

Vanassa McKenzie / Our Today

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Individuals are being urged to protect themselves from the adverse health effects of a Saharan dust plume, which has covered many parts of the Caribbean.

The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), in a statement on Saturday, February 10, pointed to an advisory from the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) that “it is highly likely that particulate matter levels will be above the 24-hour outdoor air quality guidelines” as established by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Dr Joy St John, executive director, of CARPHA, said: “Saharan dust worsens air quality and increases the levels of particulate matter in the air. This can be hazardous, especially to small children, older adults and people with underlying lung conditions and chronic cardiopulmonary diseases.”

“Saharan dust can also worsen the health symptoms of those who suffer from asthma, allergies and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),” St John added.

In light of the poor air quality levels, CARPHA is encouraging individuals to take steps to avoid the harmful effects of Saharan dust.

These include:

  • Stay indoors as much as possible and when outdoors, wear a dust mask (eg. KN95)
  • Utilise a HEPA filter indoors to purify air in individual rooms
  • Persons who use medications for pulmonary conditions should carry them at all times and use as prescribed
  • At the first sign of difficulty while breathing, seek professional medical advice immediately
  • For less severe symptoms, standard allergy medications such as antihistamines and steroid nasal sprays may alleviate symptoms

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