Scientists Uncertain If Warmer Weather Will Slow Coronavirus

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Allison Call Contributor
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Questions have arisen on whether or not the coronavirus will subside when met with warmer weather in the upcoming months.

Many viruses like the common cold and the flu are seasonal and typically peak in the winter months and drop dramatically in the summer months.

While the flu and COVID-19 – the disease caused by coronavirus – are both respiratory infections, have similar symptoms, and both peaked in winter months, some scientists are warning the public not to depend on the disease to behave like other viruses. (RELATED: CBS’s Scott Pelley Fact-Checks Mike Bloomberg On Trump Coronavirus Comment)

Dr. Nancy Messionnier of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said not to assume that warm weather will have a substantial effect on the virus.

“I think it’s premature to assume that,” Messionnier told Time magazine. “We haven’t been through even a single year with this pathogen.”

There are many reasons why warmer months see a decrease in viruses, but the primary one is the humidity, which helps prevent respiratory droplets from spreading viruses.

“The droplets that carry viruses do not stay suspended in humid air as long, and the warmer temperatures lead to more rapid virus degradation,” said Elizabeth McGraw, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Pennsylvania State University, according to Time.

The theory was spread by some researchers and certain political leaders including President Donald Trump, who suggested at a rally in Southern New Hampshire in early February that the virus will die out come April.

“The heat generally speaking kills this kind of virus,” Trump said.

Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician and a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, argued in favor of the seasonality theory. (RELATED: Stocks Roar Back From Coronavirus Plunge To Biggest Gain Since 2009)

“I do think seasonality will play a role,” Adalja said. “As this outbreak unfolds and we approach spring and summer, I do think we will see some tapering off of cases.”

“It is not yet known whether weather and temperature impact the spread of COVID-19,” according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website.

The CDC also notes that while other diseases like the common cold and the flu virus spread slower in warmer weather, it does not guarantee that COVID-19 will behave in the same manner.

The CDC states that the virus spreads person-to-person in a reaction called “community spread,” meaning people in a certain geographic region contract and share the virus. (RELATED: Traveler ‘Cleared’ Of Coronavirus Appears On Fox News, Coughs On Child While Saying ‘It Is Contagious’)

“We’ve seen, basically, explosive spread inside China of person-to-person transmission, so — in that sense — it really is behaving like a common-cold causing coronavirus,” Adalja said.

Adalja said COVID-19 appears to be reacting more like a common cold, a third of which are caused by coronaviruses.

While more northern regions like China and the U.S. are moving into warmer months, southern regions like Australia are moving into colder months. If cold weather does worsen the spread of COVID-19, the summer could lead to higher transmissions in some parts of the southern hemisphere.