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Advice for dealing with African Dust

African dust
10 May 2024 / 16:10

CORFU. Advice from Central Corfu and Diapontia Islands Municipal Public Health Department on dealing with African dust.

Advice from Central Corfu and Diapontia Islands Municipal Public Health Department on dealing with African dust.

Protective measures against African dust

There have been frequent occurrences of the phenomenon of African dust coming our country recently, which could affect the health of citizens and especially vulnerable groups of the population.

The phenomenon is expected to recur periodically and is observed during specific seasons. With the main focus on protecting public health, the National Health Organisation is providing information and recommending measures for protection against African dust.

A. GENERAL INFORMATION

What are African dust clouds and what are they made up of?

The long-range (thousands of kilometres) transport of desert dust around the planet is a natural phenomenon that plays a central role in the composition of the atmosphere and the environment, as well as in shaping weather conditions and climate. Dust transport episodes are usually seasonal. In Europe and especially in Greece, dust episodes are more frequent in spring.

Who might be at risk from African dust?

African dust can affect anyone, but the risk is greater for vulnerable population groups, such as:

  • Children and infants
  • Individuals over 65 years old
  • People with chronic respiratory diseases, mainly bronchial asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • People with chronic cardiovascular diseases

Possible symptoms from exposure to African dust

Exposure to African dust has been associated with:

  • Irritation of the eyes (itchiness, watery eyes, tearing)
  • Irritation of the upper respiratory tract, such as the nose and oral cavity (runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, hoarseness)
  • Irritation of the lower respiratory tract (difficulty breathing or dyspnea, persistent cough with or without expectoration, chest pain)
  • Exacerbation of allergic reactions (skin redness, itching)

African dust has also been linked to increased visits to Emergency Departments of hospitals for:

  • Exacerbation of bronchial asthma
  • Exacerbation of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Acute cardiovascular events

B. ADVICE FOR THE PUBLIC

What can you do to protect yourself and your family?

  • Stay informed. Monitor air quality reports and weather forecasts to know when African dust levels are expected to be high.
  • When dust levels are high, take measures:
    • Limit outdoor activities.
    • Minimise unnecessary outdoor activities or travel.
    • Stay indoors, such as at home or in the office. If you need to go outside, minimise time spent outdoors.
    • Use a car for transportation. It's recommended to keep windows closed and use the recirculation mode for ventilation.
    • Avoid strenuous physical work or exercise, such as cycling, running, or walking outdoors, sports training, or outdoor competitions (swimming pools, fields, stadiums). Move such activities to suitable indoor sports facilities or postpone them for other days, if possible.
  • Use high respiratory protection masks. When going outside, especially in conditions of high dust concentrations, it is recommended to wear a high respiratory protection mask (FFP2/KN95/N95) to reduce the inhalation of particles.
  • Take measures to improve indoor air quality.
    • Maintain good air quality indoors at home, in the office, etc.
    • Minimise the infiltration of outdoor air by keeping windows and doors closed as much as possible.
    • Improve the insulation of indoor spaces (door and window gaps) to prevent dust from entering indoors.
    • Timely activate the air purification device – if available – and ensure that it has the appropriate filters and operates properly.
    • Clean contact surfaces with a damp cloth, such as tables and countertops, and mop the floor.
    • Avoid activities that worsen indoor air quality, such as smoking, using electric vacuum cleaners, cooking with gas, lighting candles and fireplaces.
    • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water.

C. GUIDELINES FOR PROTECTING PUPILS AT SCHOOL

Avoid and limit outdoor activities.

  • Move physical education classes from outdoor spaces to suitable indoor sports halls. If this is not possible, physical education classes can be held in the children's regular classroom or in safe indoor school areas.
  • Postpone any educational visits (e.g., to theatres, museums) or school trips.
  • Advise students to avoid activities involving intense physical exercise, such as football matches or other competitive sports during breaks, and encourage alternative activities.

Ensure good air quality in the classrooms.

  • Minimise the infiltration of outdoor air into indoor spaces by keeping windows and doors closed as much as possible in the classrooms throughout the school period.
  • Ensure that all contact and work surfaces (e.g., tables, desks) are cleaned with a damp cloth before the start of classes.
  • Provide instructions to cleaning staff to mop the classrooms and clean all contact and work surfaces (e.g., tables, desks) with a damp cloth at the end of the day.

 

Deputy Mayor Spyros Galanis