|Wang Ruoqi (left), a 2-year-old girl, inhales medicine to treat her bronchitis at the pediatric department of China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing on Tuesday. (China Daily/Feng Yongbin)|
Smog has helped trigger a wave of respiratory ailments in the past several days in Beijing, while flu viruses such as H1N1 continue to spread across the city, experts said.
Ma Anlin, deputy director of the department of infectious diseases of China-Japan Friendship Hospital, said the hospital's fever clinics, including that in the pediatric department, are receiving 600 people a day, many more than in the same period last year.
"A large number of the patients show flu-like symptoms. It is a relatively concentrated outbreak of flu-like cases since the outbreak of H1N1 flu in the spring of 2009, but the prevalence is still at a low level," he said.
"Flu viruses tend to reach a peak in their activity every two decades and have smaller outbreaks every three to five years. Also, they tend to be more active in extreme weather, such as in this unusually cold winter."
Meanwhile, the clinics received slightly more visits around Sunday, when air pollution caused by the smog assisted the spread of viruses, Ma said.
"The most effective way to prevent flu is ventilation. However, in an environment where the air is still or moves at a slow pace, such as when there are many particles in the air, it will heighten the risk of inhaling them," he said.
"Also, too many particles inhaled may disrupt the hairlike cilia in human airways, which act to keep out dirt and micro-organisms, making it easier for the virus to contact the respiratory tract directly."
Li Yanming, a doctor at the respiration department of Beijing Hospital, agreed, and believed the damage the smog does to one's respiratory system is much greater than cold weather.
"Too many inhalable particles in the air will defy the self-cleaning function of the respiratory system, so some of the particles may enter the lower respiratory tract and even the lungs," she said.
2012 year in review: Steps of growth
2012 year in review: Say goodbye
2012 in review: Questions on responsibility
China’s weekly story (2012.12.27-2013.1.4)
New Year Wishes from left-behind children
Kazak's wonderful falcon game in Xinjiang
Food is the paramount necessity of life
Dense fog causes serious air pollution
Twisted, ugly ‘Tower of Large Intestine’ found