As if we did not have enough reasons to quarantine, we now are saddled with of all things, a torrential Saharan dust storm. I want to believe we are just in a terribly awkward B movie, but this is reality for some of the United States in the next few days.
A few facts about dust storms. Dust storms are not new to a certain part of the world, just the United States. Occasionally, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean countries will see the affects of dust storms, but this one, according to several people who have lived in the islands, is the worst they have ever seen. The World Meteorological Association states dust storms occur when strong winds lift large amount of sand from bare dry soils into the atmosphere. The average lifespan of these particles range from a few hours to over ten days, depending on the winds and climate shifts.
Dust storms can affect health of people and pets. For many of most of us, allergies are a major issue. For those in a LOW lying dust storm, particles under 10um are not breathable, so they will just irritate eyes and skin. Particles over 10um can be breathable and cause respiratory issues. For those who already have allergies and asthma, this can worsen or potentiate existing conditions. Now for the RARE and worst case scenario items. I will say it again rare and worst case. Organisms can be transported on these dust particles, everything from meningitis to complicated fungal infections ,that if inhaled can cause serious illness. They don’t call the Sub-Sahara the meningitis belt for nothing. These symptoms can mimic COVID in some ways , but the signature of meningitis is a stiff neck and headache plus fever. Fever is classified according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as a temperature over 100.4. If you have symptoms that are not getting better with over the counter treatments, please call your doctor. There are more companies using telehealth and can see you quickly to get you diagnosed.
This all being said, this dust storm is flying about 5,000 to 20,000 feet above us. There is a potential for these above items, but hopefully, we will see nothing but spectacular sunsets and lots cool photographs. . In addition, this is staving off hurricanes, so that is good news.
Have Protective eye wear /scarves/masks on hand in case you have to go outside, and do not forget your pets. Instead of a hurricane party, how about a sandstorm party, it is the latest and greatest thing these days.