October 15, 2020 -- Respiratory viruses tend to be seasonal, including the two most common flu viruses, but the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 seems to be a year-round nuisance, according to a new study published in the journal Nature.
Environmental factors such as humidity and temperature don’t appear to affect the coronavirus as much as other viruses, which flourish more in the dry, cold months of winter.
Coronavirus transmission “can still happen in warm and humid places, as seen in the U.S. during the past summer months,” Mauricio Santillana, one of the study authors and an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told Yahoo Life.
The research team investigated epidemiological data from Johns Hopkins University, as well as major public health organizations such as the WHO, CDC, European CDC and China CDC. They looked at several additional countries, including Iran, Italy, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, as well as 345 cities in China.
Based on the spatial patterns of COVID-19, the transmission doesn’t seem to be affected by temperature, humidity or human movements alone. In fact, higher temperatures may have led to an increase in transmission in 122 cities in China, Santillana said, and the coronavirus has thrived in both cold provinces and tropical locations globally.
However, the study findings don’t “negate the possibility that temperature and humidity could play a modulating role on COVID-19 transmission as they do in influenza transmission,” he added.
For now, the study authors suggest that people continue to wear face masks and follow social distancing guidelines since most people have still not been exposed to the coronavirus worldwide.
“We will have to follow preventive measures to protect the most vulnerable groups all year round,” Santillana said. “This may change as more people get infected and/or if an effective and broadly available vaccine becomes available.”