Viruses usually follow a pattern during their season. For example, the Flu typically arrives with the colder winter months, as well as the norovirus. Other viruses, such as typhoid, tend to peak during the summer. Measles cases usually drop during the summer, while in tropical regions they peak in the dry season.
So with the new coronavirus COVID-19, many people are now asking shouldn’t it slow down as temperatures get warmer? Will the spring and summer months slow down the virus?
Since it first emerged in China around mid-December, the virus has spread quickly, with the number of cases now rising most sharply in Europe and the US.
Many of the largest outbreaks have been in regions where the weather is cooler, leading people to speculate that the disease might thrive in the cold weather and barely survive during warmer weather. But is that really true?
The virus that causes Covid-19 – which has been officially named SARS-CoV-2 – is honestly too new to have any firm data on how it will react to changes of seasons. The closely related Sars virus that spread in 2003 was contained quickly, meaning there is little information about how it was affected by the seasons.
Coronaviruses are a family of so-called “enveloped viruses”. This means they are coated in an oily coat, known as a lipid bilayer, studded with proteins that stick out like spikes of a crown, helping to give them their name – corona is Latin for crown.
Research on other enveloped viruses suggests that this oily coat makes the viruses more susceptible to heat than those that do not have one. In colder conditions, the oily coat hardens into a rubber-like state, much like fat from cooked meat will harden as it cools, to protect the virus for longer when it is outside the body. Most enveloped viruses tend to show strong seasonality as a result of this.
“Climate comes into play because it affects the stability of the virus outside the human body when expelled by coughing or sneezing, for example,” says Miguel Araújo, who studies the effects of environmental change on biodiversity at the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid, Spain.
According to the BBC, Research has already shown that Sars-Cov-2 can survive for up to 72 hours on hard surfaces like plastic and stainless steel at temperatures of between 21-23C (70-73F) and in relative humidity of 40%. Exactly how the Covid-19 virus behaves at other temperatures and humidity has still to be tested, but research on…