October 30, 2020

Summer heat won’t kill the coronavirus, but it can change it, experts say

It’s time to put the myth to rest: You can catch the novel coronavirus no matter how sunny or hot the weather is, and it will continue to spread through summer.

The durability of the coronavirus in warmer weather is a message public health agencies have been spreading since the pandemic began, but leaders across the country still sporadically tout the myth as one that could save millions from infection, stress and fear.

The catch? Although there is no evidence that summer heat can kill the virus in a way that leads to less infections and deaths, it can mutate it, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

What’s more, the majority of a population in a region must have some level of immunity before weather can play any role in slowing or speeding things up, research shows.

“When things get hot, [the virus] is exposed to heat that can encourage it to mutate, make itself more adaptable and have better fitness to withstand that new temperature,” Dr. Andria Rusk, an assistant professor specializing in infectious disease at Florida International University’s College of Public Health and Social Work, told McClatchy News.

But such mutations have only been observed in laboratories, leaving doubt if they would occur in natural settings.

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