Will Warmer Weather Slow Down COVID-19?

By Chelsie Evans on March 20 2020 in Answer

Scientists are still researching COVID-19, so the data on how warm weather might affect COVID-19 is inconclusive. Photo by Brian McGowan on Unsplash
Scientists are still researching COVID-19, so the data on how warm weather might affect COVID-19 is inconclusive. Photo by Brian McGowan on Unsplash
  • Influenza viruses seem to propagate during the winter because the viruses appear to live longer in cold, dry air.
  • COVID-19 and influenza are vastly different illnesses despite similar symptoms (fever, dry cough, difficulty breathing)
  • SARS was a very distinctive illness, it was easier to control and thus the containment measures taken at the time were effective.

Will warmer weather slow down Covid-19? The short answer is no one can be certain. The long answer is scientists can only hypothesize at the moment by using data from other coronaviruses known to be have been in human circulation like SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), and the four mild coronaviruses that have been around for decades.  

Inconclusive Data

There is not enough data to determine if COVID-19 will be affected by warmer temperatures and humidity. Photo by Brian McGowan on Unsplash

Coronaviruses are zoonotic viruses that are transmitted to humans and can cause a range of illnesses from a mild cold to respiratory distress to kidney failure. While there are four known coronaviruses that act like the seasonal flu, causing mild cold symptoms, SARS, MERS, and the current COVID-19 virus are much more prolific in how they spread and attack the body. Some evidence suggests that because SARS was eradicated in July, and that the warmer temperatures stopped the spread of the virus. On the other hand, many researchers suggest that since SARS was a very distinctive illness, it was easier to control and thus the containment measures taken at the time were effective. MERS comes from the Middle East, which is typically a warmer climate and still pops up from time to time regardless of temperature. COVID-19 is still in the research stages, meaning data is not conclusive and scientists can neither confirm or deny if the virus will slow during warmer months. Even if the virus doesn’t spread in the summer, there is no guarantee that it won’t come back during the next flu season.  

Vastly Different

COVID-19 and influenza are vastly different illnesses despite similar symptoms (fever, dry cough, difficulty breathing), but because influenza has been researched and tested for many years, scientists were able to develop a vaccine and are better able to understand how flu viruses react to different atmospheric conditions.  Influenza viruses seem to propagate during the winter because the viruses appear to live longer in cold, dry air. Other theories suggest that the flu spreads easily during cold months because people stay inside more and come into contact with others more often, Diet change and lack of vitamin D can also contribute to the flu spreading. Essentially, there is nothing certain about the way viruses act in different temperatures and humidity levels. Viruses must be studied for years, and when there are many changing variables it is very difficult to make a concrete conclusion.

New Disease  

Since COVID-19 is a new disease, at this time there is little data to fully support the conclusion that the infections will drop when the temperatures rise. A non-peer reviewed study done by the University of Maryland and the University of Tehran has made some suggestions that the virus does spread faster between 41-50 degrees Fahrenheit (5-10 degrees Celsius) and humidity levels between 50-80%. At this time, the only sure thing is that governments need to test as many people as they can, and individuals should practice social distancing, proper hygiene, and stay at home.

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