Can heat beat it?
Like flu, will warm weather slow the spread of COVID-19?
Vikki Mioduszewski Published: July 26, 2020
Many media outlets and medical experts have compared (and contrasted) the coronavirus to the flu virus. So, when it comes to warm weather, which Harvard University says helps keep the flu virus at bay during summer, can heat beat the virus that causes COVID-19 as well?
The reason for flu seasons is that the virus thrives in cooler, drier weather rather than in muggy, hot summer temps. As the world lives through its first summer with the newest coronavirus, doctors and researchers are watching closely to see how it reacts to the summertime highs, too.
Mobeen Rathore, MD, is chief of Pediatric Infectious Disease and Immunology for Wolfson Children’s Hospital and co-director of the Baptist Health Infection Prevention and Control Committee. While the scientific community doesn’t have exact answers on how this novel coronavirus is responding to the heat, he says “there is still hope” that summer is on our side.
“We know flu viruses go away, so it’s possible that will happen with this one also,” he said. “This is such a new virus that we know very little about it. So, we will all learn together. Unfortunately, we haven’t maintained the same level of social distancing as we have in past months, so right now numbers are going up over the summer, not down. We don’t know if the temperature has an effect on it. What we do know is that the virus needs hosts, so as long as people can get infected, it will continue to spread.”
Dr. Rathore added that, had Florida’s bars, restaurants and other businesses remained closed, there may have been an opportunity for the heat to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus. But as more precautions are lifted and large events are put back on the calendar, any chance the heat might have made a difference is quickly disappearing.
“We know the other coronaviruses that cause infection in the winter usually wither away in the summer, and we were hoping this one would follow the same pattern,” he said. “Obviously, there’s a huge concern with major events happening in Jacksonville because social distancing will be hard, and enforcing mask use would be nearly impossible.”
When COVID-19 first came into the U.S., Dr. Rathore feels most people took the CDC-recommended precautions seriously. Now, he hopes some of these same individuals will not see the summer heat as a reason to relax on safety measures, no matter how much we all want to return to normal.
“I think more people were cautionary about it before, but not so much at this time,” he said. “That caution should stay, whether it’s cold or hot, and you should be social distancing. Masking should continue. Don’t go anywhere you don’t have to.”
Reference: Harvard University