The novel coronavirus is now spreading faster and taking more lives than it was in the earlier stages. Statistics on the cases and fatalities are being updated on an hourly basis. And it is clear that some regions are more affected by others and claims are being made on the spread.
One such common claim that is being heard from the beginning is that hot temperatures could kill coronavirus. For the same, people were using hot dryers and blowing it on their face or skin, thinking that it could kill it. However, scientists debunked that myth, and it cannot kill the virus.
However, since the summer is close, the claim of hot temperatures killing the coronavirus is coming back. How true is that?
Taking a broader picture into a perspective, a lot of viruses that attack like flu are more common in winter than in summer. Does it say anything? During winter, the ambient temperature may stress the body with more physiological work and energy for thermoregulation. Which, in turn, may weaken the body’s immune system and other functions to regulate it (1). Thus, the susceptibility of being attacked by viruses or pathogens is high during winters.
On the other hand, the person’s body might not require much energy for thermoregulation. But, it doesn’t mean that a person can’t be affected by a coronavirus. There are no robust studies that say that coronavirus can’t survive or weaken during the summer.
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On the other hand, flu virus and novel coronavirus are similar in a few factors such as: spreading via respiratory droplets or contaminated surfaces and causing mild to fatal respiratory disorders. However, the rate of spread, severity, and fatality of COVID-19 is much higher compared to flu or similar viral infections.
On the other hand, what if it is the other way around, and doesn’t stop during summer? Instead of relying on what other viruses behave, and due to a lack of study on the behavior of COVID-19, one should follow the precautionary measures to prevent the infections.
However, novel coronavirus is relatively new to humans, unlike other cases of flu. This means that if other flu or similar infections attack us, humans, in summer, our body’s immune system has adapted mechanisms to ward it off. Unlike the new virus, wherein if the virus attacks us, we do not if our body will be able to ward it off. Plus, there is no reliable evidence if the temperature has any direct impact on the new structure or activity of the new coronavirus.
Considering the fact that viruses don’t survive in warmer temperatures, countries like Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Singapore, and Indonesia have new cases of coronavirus coming up every day. If we take it the other way around, in the coming months, these countries will experience their winters, which could also be a significant threatening factor.
The cities that are profoundly affected by coronavirus are also more or less on the same latitude or temperatures (3).
Comparing Other Similar Infections
SARS and MERS were similar to COVID-19, but there is no substantial evidence which shows that temperatures slowed or contained those viruses. SARS started in November and contained by July may have seasonal influence, but there were high interventions and protocols to contain that virus.
In fact, MERS infection began in September 2012 in Saudi Arabia, which has relatively higher temperatures. The novel coronavirus is also spreading quite rapidly in Iran and the United Arab Emirates, which have a similar environmental pattern.
On a positive note, if the coronavirus slows down during this summer, it may give some additional information or patterns that could help in slowing down and developing more effective medications. Besides, it will also relieve some pressure from the government bodies and organizations and develop more effective protocols to contain the spread.
Some claim if it slows down in summer, it might as well come back in winter.
If the virus returns in winter, it may become a seasonal infection, which could have a significant burden, considering its severity. Experts claim that the best way to overcome this burden is to not rely on temperature to slow it down, but rather work on reducing the number of people infected.
Other reasons why winter could season be more susceptible for infections than summer:
People spend more time indoors with doors and windows sealed. In such cases, they are more likely to breathe the same air of people in their homes who may even mildly be infected with no symptoms.
Lack of sunlight, which can lead to lower levels of vitamin D. It may also weaken the immune system and other body functions.
Colder and dry temperatures may increase the survival abilities of viruses (2).
Medical experts around the globe advise people not to panic. They also warn not to be too lenient, thinking that warmer temperatures can prevent the spread or kill the novel coronavirus. Although China and South Korea have been hit worse with the novel coronavirus, they have been able to stabilize it with fewer new cases in the past few days. So that should give the good news that taking protocols could be highly effective in containing the virus.