I’ve got some good coronavirus news for you today. There is a paper titled “High Temperature and High Humidity Reduce the Transmission of COVID-19.”
According to this paper, higher temperatures and higher humidity significantly reduce the spread of the coronavirus. This means that the arrival of summer and a rainy season may effectively decrease the spread of COVID-19.
This could make sense because when the coronavirus pandemic first began, certain countries that were warmer and more humid had fewer coronavirus cases than countries with a colder and less humid climate at the time.
In the next few months, as the temperature is warming up and the humidity is increasing, I think we may see a significant drop in the spread of the coronavirus.
Effect of Drying, Heat, and Relative Humidity
Ten microlitres of maintenance medium containing 107 TCID50 per mL of the virus were placed in individual wells of 24-well plastic plates and allowed to dry at room temperature (22~25°C) and relative humidity of 40–50% (i.e., conditions prevailing in a typical air-conditioned room). One hundred microlitres of MM was used to resuspend the virus at 0 hr, 3 hr, 7 hr, 11 hr, 13 hr, 24 hr, and up to 4 weeks and the residual virus infectivity was titrated. Controls in closed screw cap Eppendorf tube were included each time and treated similarly but without drying.
The experiment was repeated at different temperatures (38°C, 33°C, 28°C) and relative humidities (>95%, 80~89%) for 3 hr, 7 hr, 11 hr, 13 hr, and 24 hr. A nebulizer under a controlled condition was used to generate high and relatively low humidity environment. All the experiments above were conducted in duplicate and the residual viral infectivity was titrated.
This paper investigates how air temperature and humidity influence the transmission of COVID-19. After estimating the serial interval of COVID-19 from 105 pairs of the virus carrier and the infected, we calculate the daily effective reproductive number, R, for each of all 100 Chinese cities with more than 40 cases.
Using the daily R values from January 21 to 23, 2020 as proxies of non-intervened transmission intensity, we find, under a linear regression framework for 100 Chinese cities, high temperature and high relative humidity significantly reduce the transmission of COVID-19, respectively, even after controlling for population density and GDP per capita of cities.
One degree Celsius increase in temperature and one percent increase in relative humidity lower R by 0.0383 and 0.0224, respectively.
This result is consistent with the fact that the high temperature and high humidity significantly reduce the transmission of influenza.
It indicates that the arrival of summer and rainy season in the northern hemisphere can effectively reduce the transmission of the COVID-19.
100 Different Chinese Cities affected by COVID-19
The researchers studied 100 different Chinese cities that each had more than 40 cases of COVID-19 from Jan. 21 to 23. According to AccuWeather Senior Weather Editor and Meteorologist Jesse Ferrell, the decision to study transmission on those dates was critical because that time period was before China intervened on Jan. 24 to stop the spread of the virus.
Analyzing that timeframe allowed researchers to observe the natural spread of the virus before public health measures, which have since helped reduce the spread drastically in China, where implemented.
That step was one of several sound methods taken by authors Jingyuan Wang, Kai Feng, Weifeng Lv of Beihang University, and Ke Tang from Tsinghua University, according to Ferrell.
He also commended the authors’ accounting for GDP per capita, which normalized the differences in health care facilities, and the normalizations for population density.
Could the summer bring an end to COVID-19?
In countries with an average temperature greater than 64.4 F (18 C) and an absolute humidity greater than 9 g/m3, the number of COVID-19 cases is less than 6% of the global cases.
This suggests “that the transmission of the 2019-nCoV virus might have been less efficient in a warm humid climate so far,” the authors wrote. Humidity especially might play a role, given that most of the transmission of COVID-19 has happened in relatively less humid areas.
For most of North America and Europe, the effect of humidity on the spread of the coronavirus would be negligible until June, when levels start to increase beyond 9 g/m3, the authors wrote.
Still, with over 10,000 cases of COVID-19 being reported in regions with average temperatures of 18 degrees C (64.4 degrees F) after March 15, the role of warmer temperatures in slowing the spread might be observed only at much higher temperatures.
“Therefore its implication will be limited at least for northern European countries and the northern U.S., which do not experience such warm temperatures until July, and that too for a very short time window,” the authors wrote. So the chances of reducing the spread of COVID-19 due to these environmental factors would be limited across these areas, they added.
The spread of some respiratory viruses, such as the flu viruses, diminishes in high humidity and high temperatures.
It’s not exactly clear why temperature and humidity affect the flu virus or other seasonal viruses, but it’s in part because when you exhale, some virus at the back of your throat gets pushed out into the air, Schaffner told Live Science.
When you have low humidity in the wintertime, that sphere of moisture tends to evaporate, which “means that the virus can hover in the air for a longer period of time because gravity won’t pull it to the ground,” Schaffner said. But in the summer, when you exhale a viral particle, the surrounding droplet doesn’t evaporate, which means it will be heavier and gravity will pull it out of the air much more readily. In other words, “it doesn’t hover as long as it does in the winter,” making it less likely to infect the person close by, he said.
Transmission of the flu goes down to very low levels during the summer, so we don’t typically have to worry about it very much in warmer months, he added. But other viruses, such as the coronavirus strains that cause the common cold, “have a seasonal distribution that is not as dramatic as influenza,” Schaffner told Live Science.
“If we were to get a microscope and look at that virus, we would discover that it’s surrounded by a microscopic sphere of moisture” called a droplet, he added.
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Note: High temperatures and humidity can ‘significantly’ slow the spread of coronavirus, but won’t completely stop it, study finds