Spring may impact the spread of the coronavirus
As the number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases continues to climb, many wonder when a vaccine will be available.
Weather could play a role in the spread and also the suppression of the novel coronavirus, according to AccuWeather experts who have studied the weather’s impact on past diseases. More than 28,000 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed and 565 deaths have been reported as of Feb. 6.
The United States Embassy confirmed the first American diagnosed with coronavirus in Wuhan, China, has died because of the virus.
The embassy released the following statement:
"We can confirm a 60-year old U.S. citizen diagnosed with coronavirus died at Jinyintian Hospital in Wuhan, China on February 6. We offer our sincerest condolences to the family on their loss. Out of the respect for the family's privacy, we have no further comment."
AccuWeather’s experts looked at transmission patterns of past flus and viruses such as SARS in 2003, the 1918 Spanish Flu and U.S. flu data over the last decade.
“Right now and over the next several months, because of the weak sun and the colder temperatures in the northern hemisphere, the weather may be helping to spread the virus,” AccuWeather Founder and CEO Dr. Joel N. Myers said. "However, based on what we’ve seen from past flus and viruses, including the SARS virus and others, there is less viral spread when the sun is strong and the temperatures are warm from May to September. It's possible the sunshine intensity, the longer daylight periods and the warmer weather could suppress the virus in the summer months.
"Still, this coronavirus may be very different – and we’re just learning about it. The possibility is this does not behave like all of the others and that it does not decline once the sun gets stronger and the temperatures increase throughout the spring and summer,” said Myers. “Instead, if it continues to compound through the entire spring and summer it may infect millions and become a pandemic."
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global health emergency due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus as the number of confirmed cases continued to climb. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said the number of confirmed cases in the United States had reached 12. At least 26 other countries have reported cases.
(Courtesy World Health Organization)
When asked by AccuWeather if seasonality could contribute to the spread of coronaviruses, Johns Hopkins professor and vice chair Dr. Andrew Pekosz said, “Respiratory coronaviruses do appear more frequently in cooler months (late fall, winter). Since we don’t know how this virus was transmitted within its natural host, it’s difficult to predict if it will have the same pattern as human respiratory coronaviruses.”
As to whether temperature and humidity have an effect on the spread of this strain of the virus, which was first observed in December 2019, Dr. Pekosz cautioned, "We have no data on how this might affect 2019-nCoV transmission."
Myers agrees about the uncertainty of this particular virus. “And, of course, it is also possible that even if then it is found that the sun and warmth slows it down but does not stop it, then once we go into declining sunlight again in September and October -- like we saw with the Spanish Flu in 1918 -- it could erupt in an enormous fashion because a vaccine still may not have been developed according to the experts,” he said.
(Courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
By monitoring the spread of coronavirus in areas currently experiencing summer, researchers could get an indication of what’s ahead.
“It will be interesting to see if it does not spread as much in Australia, Africa and South America as it might in the northern hemisphere because it’s their summer there right now,” Myers noted. “There are currently cases in Australia because people have traveled from China, so it is important we observe its behavior through the spread.”
Chart showing mortality from the 1918 influenza pandemic in the U.S. and Europe. (Courtesy of the National Museum of Health and Medicine)
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Lauren Fox contributed to this article.Report a Typo