Can summer reduce impact of Corona Virus?
The world is going through a turmoil right now with the Corona Virus Pandemic and the scientific community is busy like never before with their analysis and observations.
Sadhguru always says, we should see how to make the best out of whatever comes our way. I feel it is a wonderful message and is what we all have to focus upon as individuals to lead better lives.
So, when in one of the videos I saw today, Sadhguru mentioned that people are hoping the summer season would ‘potentially’ reduce the impact of Corona Virus, my interest levels on this topic rose after listening to this and I checked to see what could be true.
This is what Sadhguru mentioned in his speech (the relevant section’s transcript):
- We are not sure about this. Most people are hoping about this. It is possible that the ability of the virus to transmit itself may come down as temperatures rise.
- Above all with the solar energy powered up, our bodies will function with a little more zest. Because of that our immune systems definitely function better. So, we may go through Corona in a much milder way than some nations are going through.
There are two parts to this:
- That the viral infection may go down with rising temperatures
- That our bodies would have better immunity in rising temperature
Changing Human immunity with summer
There are scientific studies that do suggest our immune systems may be functioning better in summer.
A Cambridge University study which tested 23,000 genes from men and women living all round the globe found that almost one in four genes behaved differently according to the season.
Crucially, a gene associated with suppressing infections was found to be more active in summer.
Previous research has shown that a host of health conditions — including heart attacks and strokes — are more common in winter.
“We know that humans adapt to changing environments,” says Dr Chris Wallace. “Our paper suggests that human immune systems adapt to show different seasonal variation in equatorial regions with fewer distinct seasons compared to regions at higher and lower latitudes with more pronounced differences between winter and season.”
It is not clear yet what mechanism maintains the seasonal variation seen in the immune system, though it may be due to environmental cues such as daylight and ambient temperature. Our internal body clock — known as our circadian rhythm — is in part coordinated by changes in daylight, which explains why people in jobs that do not fit with the daily cycle, such as factory shift workers or crews on long haul flights, can be affected by poorer health.
What Sadhguru said regarding human immune system seems to be certainly valid.
Viral infection coming down with summer
Coronaviruses, much like influenza, tend to be winter viruses. In cold and dry air, the thin layers of liquid that coat our lungs and airways become even thinner, and the beating hairs that rest in those layers struggle to evict viruses and other foreign particles. Dry air also seems to dampen some aspects of the immune response to those trapped viruses. In the heat and humidity of summer, both trends reverse, and respiratory viruses struggle to get a foothold.
Unfortunately, that might not matter for the COVID-19 pandemic. At the moment, the virus is tearing through a world of immunologically naive people, and that vulnerability is likely to swamp any seasonal variations.
Unless people can slow the spread of the virus by sticking to physical-distancing recommendations, the summer alone won’t save us.
Now, regarding temperature, there was and there is still a lot of controversy, but a paper was published by MIT, USA, where they have shown the heat-sensitivity of this virus. This virus is unable to exist for long periods above 32 degrees .
Now, this means several things. In India, it means that hopefully, as we progress into May — when the heat rises — maybe the virus transmission may come down. But indoors, where we are living in air-conditioning or where the temperature levels are cool, the problem still persists. So, temperature may have a role but it might start having an effect only after May.
The MIT research is peer-reviewed. It has not been completely published but the peer reviews look positive. There is some evidence that it is a heat-sensitive virus, which may be beneficial, but as I said, this is still preliminary data in an experimental lab. It is not clinically proven.
It appears the scientists are not discounting that summer will have an impact on the spread of the virus but they are afraid of two factors:
- Right now, people do not have much immunity against this unknown strain of the virus
- People not maintaining physical distancing may nullify any effect the season may have on spread of the virus.
But if we build up our general body immunity sufficiently and maintain physical distancing properly as advised, the impending summer in some parts of the world could indeed help us more in this fight.