Will Warmer Weather Reduce COVID-19 Spread
A new temperature map can potentially help health leaders predict the future risk of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
Researchers at the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) and the Global Virus Network (GVN) predict that SARS-CoV-2, and COVID-19, the disease it causes, will follow a seasonal pattern similar to other respiratory viruses like seasonal flu.
In a new research paper published on the open-data site SSRN on March 9, 2020, the researchers found that cities experiencing significant outbreaks of COVID-19 have very similar winter climates.
These areas include Wuhan, China, South Korea, Japan, Iran, Northern Italy, Seattle, and Northern California.
“Based on what we have documented so far, it appears that the coronavirus has a harder time spreading between people in warmer, tropical climates,” said study leader Mohammad Sajadi, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine in the UMSOM, physician-scientist at the Institute of Human Virology and a member of GVN.
This research team based its predictions on weather data from the previous few months as well as typical patterns from last year to hypothesize on community spread within the next few weeks.
In areas where the virus has already spread within the community, like Wuhan, Milan, and Tokyo, temperatures did not dip below the freezing mark, the researchers pointed out.
They based their predictions on a study of the novel coronavirus in the laboratory, which found that a temperature of 39 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity level of 20 to 80 percent is most conducive to the virus’s survival.
“Using 2019 temperature data for March and April, risk of community spread could be predicted to occur in areas just north of the current areas at risk,” said study co-author Augustin Vintzileos, Ph.D., Assistant Research Scientist in the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center at the UMSOM.
They plan to investigate whether weather and climate forecasts could help provide more certainty to the predictions.
Robert C. Gallo Co-founder & Director, Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine said, “In addition to climate variables, there are multiple factors to be considered when dealing with a pandemic, such as human population densities, human factors, viral genetic evolution, and pathogenesis.”
“This work illustrates how collaborative research can contribute to understanding, mitigating and preventing infectious threats.”
The Global Virus Network (GVN) is essential and critical in the preparedness, defense and first research response to emerging, exiting and unidentified viruses that pose a clear and present threat to public health, working in close coordination with established national and international institutions.
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