Summer heat will not drive away coronavirus, says US study

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The US National Academies of Science (NAS) has debunked the popular assumption that high temperature will stop the spread of coronavirus infection without personal protection, social distancing and other public health interventions.

The study which has huge significance for India, where summer is setting on, pointed out that countries currently experiencing warmer temperature than China and Europe, such as Iran and Australia were experiencing rapid spread of the deadly virus, said a Hindustan Times report.

The study which examined virus survival in relation to temperature and humidity, and potential for seasonal reduction and resurgence of cases to provide scientific evidence for decision-making said the virus can be spread by talking or breathing.

The study report, which was submitted to the White House on Tuesday, said that on current evidence and given the lack of host immunity globally, any reduction in transmission because of higher temperature and humidity may not lead to a significant decrease in disease spread without major interventions, such as personal protection and social distancing.

Many Indian scientists subscribe to the finding. Dr Anurag Agrawal, director of the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, New Delhi, said temperature is just one of the many factors that affect transmission.

“Very hot climate may reduce cases by a small number in high population density areas as heat will destroy the virus faster. I’m hopeful it may do so to some extent in Dharavi, but since hot spots are typically in hospitals, malls and offices, which are often air-conditioned even in India, transmission is unlikely to end in summer without strong public health interventions,” Agrawal was quoted by HT as saying.  

Dr V. Ramana Dhara, director, Indian Institute of Public Health, Hyderabad, said that it was too early to draw definitive conclusions on the factors influencing the virus spread without data on this novel virus in the real world.

He believes high population density, difficulty of maintaining physical distancing in households where space is limited, inability and unfamiliarity with cough/sneeze etiquette, migrant labour returning home with the virus, and mingling of people even during the current lockdown are major risk factors India needs to factor for fighting the virus.

With little evidence on how this new virus will behave, virologists are falling back on the behaviour of coronaviruses, particularly Sars-CoV, with which Sars-CoV-2 shares the most similarity.

Pandemic influenza strains have not exhibited the typical seasonal pattern of endemic and epidemic strains, the NAS report said. “There have been 10 influenza pandemics in the past 250-plus years – two started in the northern hemisphere winter, three in the spring, two in the summer and three in the fall. All had a peak second wave approximately six months after the emergence of the virus in the human population, regardless of when the initial introduction occurred,” the report added.

Image Credit: Futurism

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