CORONAVIRUS is a seasonal disease and humidity could increase the number of cases, scientists have claimed.
Epidemiologists say they have found a link between the transmission of Covid-19 and the daily temperature.
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Scientists have said coronavirus cases could increase in the winter monthsCredit: Alamy Live News
The study, by experts at the University of Sydney and the Fudan University School of Public Health in Shanghai, is the first of its kind to review the relationship between climate and Covid-19 in the southern hemisphere.
So far in the UK over 39,000 people have died from the virus and over 376,000 have died globally.
Experts had previously suggested a link between colder weather and the spread of the virus and highlighted that flu-like viruses often thrive in the winter months.
Professor Michale Ward from the University of Sydney said: “Covid-19 is likely to be a seasonal disease that recurs in periods of lower humidity.
“We need to be thinking if it’s wintertime, it could be Covid-19 time.”
Published in the Transboundary and Emerging Diseases, the study found a link between climate and the occurrence of Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong and China and with the MERS disease in Saudi Arabia.
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“When it comes to climate, we found that lower humidity is the main driver here, rather than colder temperatures.
“It means we may see an increased risk in winter here, when we have a drop in humidity. But in the northern hemisphere, in areas with lower humidity or during periods when humidity drops, there might be a risk even during the summer months. So vigilance must be maintained.”
The team looked at 749 locally acquired cases of Covid-19 in the Greater Sydney area between February 26 and March 31.
In order to determine the impact the climate had the team matched the postcodes of patients to the nearest weather observation station. From here they studied the rainfall, humidity and temperature from January to March.
The team said that humidity does play a role in the transmission of airborne viruses.
Prof Ward explained: “When the humidity is lower, the air is drier and it makes the aerosols smaller.
“When you sneeze and cough those smaller infectious aerosols can stay suspended in the air for longer. That increases the exposure for other people. When the air is humid and the aerosols are larger and heavier, they fall and hit surfaces quicker.”
The results of the study found that lower humidity levels were associated with an increase in cases.
A reduction in humidity of just one per cent meant cases would increase by six per cent.
Prof Ward said that humidity is at its lowest in August in Sydney and added that people need to be careful facing a dry winter.
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“Even though the cases of Covid-19 have gone down in Australia, we still need to be vigilant and public health systems need to be aware of potentially increased risk when we are in a period of low humidity.
“Ongoing testing and surveillance remain critical as we enter the winter months, when conditions may favour coronavirus spread.”
Despite the research confirming that cases went up during times of higher humidity, Prof Ward said more research needed to be done as the study was limited to cases contracted in summer months in Sydney and therefore results may differ in other climates.
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