Background: This study documented elevated rates of emergency room (ER) visits for acute upper and lower respiratory infections and asthma-related conditions in the children of Quito, Ecuador associated with the eruption of Guagua Pichincha in April of 2000.
Methods: We abstracted 5169 (43% females) ER records with primary respiratory conditions treated from January 1-December 27, 2000 and examined the change in pediatric ER visits for respiratory conditions before, during, and after exposure events of April, 2000. We applied a Poisson regression model adapted to time series of cases for three non-overlapping disease categories: acute upper respiratory infection (AURI), acute lower respiratory infection (ALRI), and asthma-related conditions in boys and girls for three age groups: 0-4, 5-9, and 10-15 years.
Results: At the main pediatric medical facility, the Baca Ortiz Pediatric Hospital, the rate of emergency room (ER) visits due to respiratory conditions substantially increased in the three weeks after eruption (RR = 2.22, 95%CI = [1.95, 2.52] and RR = 1.72 95%CI = [1.49, 1.97] for lower and upper respiratory tract infections respectively. The largest impact of eruptions on respiratory distress was observed in children younger than 5 years (RR = 2.21, 95%CI = [1.79, 2.73] and RR = 2.16 95%CI = [1.67, 2.76] in boys and girls respectively). The rate of asthma and asthma-related diagnosis doubled during the period of volcano fumarolic activity (RR = 1.97, 95%CI = [1.19, 3.24]). Overall, 28 days of volcanic activity and ash releases resulted in 345 (95%CI = [241, 460]) additional ER visits due to respiratory conditions.
Conclusion: The study has demonstrated strong relationship between ash exposure and respiratory effects in children.