How does weather affect the spread of coronavirus COVID-19?

Coronavirus

A rendering of coronavirus via the CDC.

(WCMH) — The start of fall through the end of spring is typically viewed as “flu season.”  But, does weather really play a role in the flu or the spread of novel coronavirus?

Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser, Chief Quality and Patient Safety Officer at Wexner Medical Center, Internal Medicine provider said, “As far as the weather goes, we really don’t see weather as a necessary implication for flu patterns for viral respiratory patterns or for viruses in general.  So the weather itself is not so much of a factor.”

“But, seasonally we do see some changes and historically and anecdotally what I can reference is that we do typically see a drop off in coronavirus, the typical coronavirus that we have seen in the past. So, not the novel coronavirus, but in typical coronavirus, we have seen a pretty significant drop off as we move out of the winter months and into the warmer months,” explained Gonsenhauser.

Heading into Spring, allergies typically pick up, and some symptoms can mimic upper respiratory infections like COVID-19. 

“Finding specific warning signs to COVID-19 is one of the big challenges.  It really does look just like a common cold or common upper respiratory infection.  There isn’t really anything that is going to distinguish it.  The best distinguishing feature is if you come into contact with somebody, direct contact with somebody who has been diagnosed, or if you have traveled to a high-risk area.  At this rate that’s China, Italy, South Korea, and Iran,” Dr. Gonsenhauser said. 

While the weather does not seem to be a factor for viruses, there has been some correlation between the two. 

“There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that there is seasonal variation and the prevalence of the viruses that cause respiratory infection.  So, it’s reasonable to expect that as we move out of winter and into the warmer months that we would see a decrease in total number of cases and transmission.  Now, again, this is a novel virus.  So, we are using viruses that are related, but not the same to base those conclusions.  And, we may or may not be correct about that.  But, history would suggest, and evidence would suggest that we see a drop off in virus rates in the summer months.”

A vaccine can take a year or 2, so in the meantime, wash your hands. 

“Certainly the data would suggest that compliment handwashing with soap and water, so that’s soap and water for 20 seconds or greater is still the most effective means of hand hygiene.  But, certainly, even though that’s the gold standard, hand sanitization is highly effective, it’s recommended by both the CDC and World Health Organization.  So, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a very effective way of hand hygiene,” Dr. Gonsenhauser said. 

So, he finds himself doing something most parents can probably relate to.

“I have 2 small kids at home, sometimes I find myself doing the hand sanitizer motion, even when I’m walking into their rooms, I’m just so used to it.”

And while your doctor can still meet with you during this time, like the flu, you mostly just have to stay at home.  But, warmer weather might help prevent spread. 

“It’s both less time indoors, less time in close quarters and fewer people who have uncontrolled respiratory secretions,” Dr. Gonsenhauser said. 

There is still a lot to learn about COVID-19, but right now it appears to spread more easily than other viruses, but be less deadly. 

“It depends which data set you look at. MERS and SARS were 6-8% mortality range.  Be careful how you’re interpreting it because it’s still outstanding.  But, if you look at South Korea which has the most complete data set, they’ve ended up at about 0.5% mortality, which is significantly lower than what we’re seeing elsewhere.”

Which makes it seem similar to what is seasonal outbreaks than other worldwide epidemics. 

“Only a bit higher, that’s about twice as significant than the seasonal flu, but it’s closer to the seasonal flu than it is to SARS and MERS,” Dr. Gonsenhauser added. 

So heading into the spring months, the best advice is still to just keep washing your hands, monitoring your symptoms and being cautious. 

“When comparing to the flu, you can imagine, if we were this cautious about flu transmission, and we were engaging in adherent hand hygiene and canceling in large venues like this, flu would likely be much less of an issue as well.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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