Kentucky Department of Public Health commissioner Dr Steven Stack warned Kentuckians that air quality in the state could be poor this weekend and next week.

A huge cloud of dry, dusty air originating in the Sahara Desert will sweep through the southern United States over the next three to seven days.

“We absolutely have to be careful this weekend and next week, watch the air quality index in our region and, if necessary, limit our time away, ”said Governor Andy Beshear. “We have already shown that we can come together to fight a global pandemic for months, so I know we can take action to protect ourselves and our loved ones for a week. “

A huge cloud of dry, dusty air originating in the Sahara Desert will sweep through the southern United States over the next three to seven days.

This type of dust plume, known as the Saharan Air Layer (SAL), is an annual phenomenon in late spring, summer, and early fall. It can occupy a layer 2 to 2.5 miles thick in the atmosphere, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. However, the most recent SAL cloud, first formed on June 14, is unusually large. It is one of the thickest on record and is almost 5,000 miles long. This means it could have a significant negative impact on air quality as it travels over Kentucky.

Poor air quality can make breathing problems such as asthma and COPD worse. It can also pose health risks to the elderly and young children.

“Fortunately, unlike COVID-19, this is a short-term problem, and the masks most Kentuckians already wear will also help protect them from inhaling dust,” Stack said. “But it remains a serious risk for our youngest and oldest residents, as well as for those with respiratory problems. We have to be especially careful this weekend to spend extended time outdoors. Kentuckians should routinely check the air quality in their postcode at airnow.gov and watch for any changes in the color and visibility of the sky.

Dust particles in the air can cause eye, lung and throat irritation and breathing difficulties. To help prevent health problems, people should review and practice the following tips to help limit exposure:

-Pay attention local air quality reports in https://www.airnow.gov/ and watch for news or health warnings regarding dust particles in your area. Pay attention to public health messages and take extra safety precautions, such as avoiding spending time outdoors.

-Continue to wear the protective mask you use to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The mask will also help prevent exposure to dust particles if worn correctly.

-Keep windows and the doors closed unless it is very hot outside. Run an air conditioner if you have one, but keep the fresh air inlet closed and the filter clean to prevent dust from getting inside. Find shelter elsewhere if you don’t have an air conditioner and it is too hot to stay indoors with the windows closed.

-Follow your doctor advice on medications and your respiratory management plan if you have asthma or other lung disease. Call your doctor if your symptoms get worse.

Over the next few days, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and the Kentucky Department for Public Health will continue to work with local and state authorities to monitor the Saharan dust plume and, if necessary, disseminate public health advisories and advice. extra to protect Kentuckians.

For more information on the Kentucky Department for Public Health, click here.

From the Cabinet for Health and Family Services

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