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Volcanic Ash as a Precursor for SARS-CoV-2 Infection Among Susceptible Populations in Ecuador: A Satellite Imaging and Excess Mortality-Based Analysis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 May 2021

Theofilos Toulkeridis*
Universidad de las Fuerzas Armadas ESPE, Sangolquí, Ecuador Universidad de Especialidades Turísticas, Quito, Ecuador
Rachid Seqqat
Universidad de las Fuerzas Armadas ESPE, Sangolquí, Ecuador
Marbel Torres Arias
Universidad de las Fuerzas Armadas ESPE, Sangolquí, Ecuador
Rodolfo Salazar-Martinez
Universidad de las Fuerzas Armadas ESPE, Sangolquí, Ecuador
Esteban Ortiz-Prado
OneHealth Global Research Group, Universidad de las Américas, Quito, Ecuador
Scarlet Chunga
Universita degli studi dell’Insubria, Italia
Karla Vizuete
Universidad de las Fuerzas Armadas ESPE, Sangolquí, Ecuador
Marco Heredia-R
Centro de Innovación en Tecnología para el Desarrollo, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM), Madrid, Spain
Alexis Debut
Universidad de las Fuerzas Armadas ESPE, Sangolquí, Ecuador
Corresponding author: Theofilos Toulkeridis, Email:


The global coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has altered entire nations and their health systems. The greatest impact of the pandemic has been seen among vulnerable populations, such as those with comorbidities like heart diseases, kidney failure, obesity, or those with worse health determinants such as unemployment and poverty. In the current study, we are proposing previous exposure to fine-grained volcanic ashes as a risk factor for developing COVID-19. Based on several previous studies it has been known since the mid 1980s of the past century that volcanic ash is most likely an accelerating factor to suffer from different types of cancer, including lung or thyroid cancer. Our study postulates, that people who are most likely to be infected during a severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) widespread wave will be those with comorbidities that are related to previous exposure to volcanic ashes. We have explored 8703 satellite images from the past 21 y of available data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) database and correlated them with the data from the national institute of health statistics in Ecuador. Additionally, we provide more realistic numbers of fatalities due to the virus based on excess mortality data of 2020-2021, when compared with previous years. This study would be a very first of its kind combining social and spatial distribution of COVID-19 infections and volcanic ash distribution. The results and implications of our study will also help countries to identify such aforementioned vulnerable parts of the society, if the given geodynamic and volcanic settings are similar.

Original Research
© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health, Inc

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Volcanic Ash as a Precursor for SARS-CoV-2 Infection Among Susceptible Populations in Ecuador: A Satellite Imaging and Excess Mortality-Based Analysis
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Volcanic Ash as a Precursor for SARS-CoV-2 Infection Among Susceptible Populations in Ecuador: A Satellite Imaging and Excess Mortality-Based Analysis
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Volcanic Ash as a Precursor for SARS-CoV-2 Infection Among Susceptible Populations in Ecuador: A Satellite Imaging and Excess Mortality-Based Analysis
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