Several weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic, people are looking for answers about how the virus will respond to changing seasons. Since the outbreak began, physicians and scientists have been speculating on how environmental conditions – including weather, may impact SARS-CoV-2. A new study, published in the Journal of Infectious Disease, is shedding some light on whether the infection rate of COVID-19 will change according to season.
In their study, the researchers investigated data from patients who had suffered from respiratory illnesses between 2015 and 2017 to identify trends in infection and help to reveal how SARS-CoV-2 could become established within humans. Diagnostic information from more than 70,000 respiratory illnesses was investigated and showed that the age and sex of patients was associated with distinct risk levels for different coronaviruses. Seasonal coronavirus was observed in 4% of the tested patients.
Analysis of the spread of different coronavirus species revealed that the timing of the spread of these viruses was different depending on the age of the infected. According to the authors of the study, SARS-CoV-2 is likely to develop seasonal patterns in temperate climates such that its infection rate increases during winter, much like many other viruses. How COVID-19 will interact with other coronaviruses and how that interaction may affect seasonality is not yet clear. SARS-CoV-2 could, for instance, act cooperatively with other coronaviruses, or it could displace them through competition.
While much more data are needed for us to understand how COVID-19 will affect us and how its effects may vary according to season, experts seem to think that if the virus is to become seasonal, the seasonality will not occur immediately. Though there is some evidence to suggest that the virus does not respond well to hot weather conditions, there is also a growing consensus that the virus won’t be significantly impacted by the emergence of summer in 2020.