Fairbanks respiratory ills blamed on cold

Posted: Monday, February 11, 2008

FAIRBANKS - The severe cold in Fairbanks is behind a hike in respiratory viruses.

Frigid temperatures are keeping people indoors, spreading germs around, according to health care providers.

In addition, Fairbanks North Star Borough officials have deemed the air unhealthy, with the amount of small particles more than double the federal standard.

The air quality goes hand-in-hand with the cold weather, according to borough transportation director Glenn Miller.

"It's been this bad for the last four days," he said. "When we have cold snaps like this, because of the inversion levels and the additional heating that goes on, the air quality diminishes."

Inversions occur when cold air is trapped by a layer of warm air in low-lying areas. Trapped along with the cold air are pollutants, including greater quantities of exhaust from cars, power plants and wood stoves.

The air quality has not become a significant health hazard. Neither Fairbanks Memorial Hospital nor Tanana Valley Clinic have seen a rise in patients with respiratory problems due to bad air, officials said.

But Tim Foote, a doctor who specializes in treating children with asthma, said he is seeing more patients suffering from influenza.

"The cold weather has driven more people inside," Foote said. "We are sharing most of our infectious diseases."

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