Heat Stop the Spread of the Coronavirus?

As outbreaks of the new coronavirus that first rose in China continue to spread in excess of 100 countries — particularly those encountering winter — one of the biggest unanswered questions is the means by which it will behave in warmer weather.

Like influenza, the new disease is a respiratory infection having a place with a family of viruses that typically survive longer in colder environments. Most individuals experience just gentle or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, but more established adults and individuals with existing health problems may have increasingly severe illnesses, including pneumonia.

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The virus has reached each mainland with the exception of Antarctica but has yet to cause major outbreaks in the Southern Hemisphere. Some key questions on how the virus may behave once the temperature rises:

WILL THE VIRUS RETREAT IN HOT WEATHER?

Nobody knows. The new coronavirus was distinguished uniquely in late December and most scientists say there is simply no data to suggest the COVID-19 cases will start declining in warmer weather.

“We have to assume that the virus will continue to have the capacity to spread, and it’s a false want to say yes, it will just disappear in the summertime like influenza,” said Dr. Michael Ryan, the World Health Organization’s emergencies boss.

Dr. Dale Fisher, a senior consultant in infectious diseases at the National University of Singapore, was similarly unconvinced that blistering weather would significantly slow its spread.

“Maybe after it’s been around for a couple of years and most of the world has had it, maybe then it will settle into a more flu-like pattern,” he said. “Since we have no natural immunity to this, we’re all much increasingly vulnerable, regardless of what the weather is.”

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But Dr. Mohammad Sajadi, an associate professor of medication at the University of Maryland, thinks weather may play a job. He and colleagues found a striking temperature similarity among regions with sustained outbreaks of COVID-19: somewhere in the range of 5 and 11 degrees Celsius (41 and 52 degrees Fahrenheit).

“In case we’re directly about seasonality, that could help with surveillance and other public health measures,” Sajadi said.

HOW HAVE RELATED VIRUSES BEHAVED?

The new virus is genetically related to SARS and MERS. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome first broke out in China in late 2002 and ultimately sickened about 8,000 individuals worldwide before it was declared contained in July 2003.

But the arrival of summer wasn’t what stopped SARS. Extraordinary measures that included shutting down travel from epicenters in Asia and Canada and a mass culling of palm civets that spread the disease to humans were largely credited for curbing the disease.

Although the transmission of Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome has never been completely interrupted, its spread to humans from camels is mostly sporadic, sparking restricted outbreaks since being recognized in 2012.

“I don’t think there’s anything we can say about seasonality and the coronavirus based on what we’ve seen with SARS and MERS,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “I’ve been in the Arabian peninsula when MERS is spreading in 110-degree (43 degrees Celsius) heat just fine,” he said.

For what reason HASN’T THE VIRUS CAUSED SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE EPIDEMICS?

It could be too soon; past pandemics have sometimes taken months to reach each country in the world.

Surveillance may also be an issue. The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to those for numerous different diseases, including flu, measles and malaria, so recognizing cases of the new virus is challenging.

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Benjamin Cowling, head of the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Division at the School of Public Health at Hong Kong University, said he suspects more extensive outbreaks exist in countries that already have affirmed cases, such as Thailand and Vietnam.

“Most of the typically hot countries, we think, have not been testing as aggressively as some of the colder ones have been,” he said.

Cowling also said that how individuals behave in winter environments is likely having an impact.

“Individuals are bound to spend time indoors in colder weather than they are in the summer,” he said. “Additional time indoors means that individuals are bound to be in the same rooms together and thus get contaminated.”

Sajadi, the professor who found the temperature similarities, acknowledged epidemics are influenced by numerous factors but hypothesized that countries with cooler weather may be worse affected by the coronavirus, taking note of that even southern parts of countries with huge outbreaks, like Italy and Iran, have not been hit as badly.

But, Cowling said, higher temperatures are unlikely to fully stop the continued spread of the virus.

“I don’t think we can count on it stopping in the summer. It may slow down, but it won’t be stopped,” he said. “At this rate, we would anticipate that each country in the world should have cases in about nine months — we’re headed towards that now. ”

The new virus is genetically related to SARS and MERS. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome first broke out in China in late 2002 and ultimately sickened about 8,000 individuals worldwide before it was declared contained in July 2003.

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