The holiday season is still not done delivering bad news. With ICUs at 0% capacity in some parts of the United States, Public health officials wonder if the seasonal change alone will affect the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. A recent research study has studied the influence of temperature and humidity on the properties of individual virus-likes.

When it comes to fighting the spread of this virus, you kind of have to fight every particle individually. And so you need to understand what makes each individual particle degrade. People are also working on vaccines and are trying to understand how the virus is recognized? All of these questions are single particle questions. And if you understand that, then that enables you to fight a hoard of them.

The results indicate cold weather could have a preserving effect on the virus. The first study to evaluate the mechanics of the virus at a single particle stage, found that other coronaviruses tend to infect more people during the winter months.

Source: CNN; Johns Hopkins University

"You would expect that temperature makes a huge difference, and that's what we saw. To the point where the packaging of the virus was completely destroyed by even moderate temperature increases," said Michael Vershinin, assistant professor at the University of Utah and co-senior author of the paper. "What's surprising is how little heat was needed to break them down -- surfaces that are warm to the touch, but not hot. The packaging of this virus is very sensitive to temperature."

Snowshoeing on a snowy day at Gold Creek Pond.
Photo by Adam Chang / Unsplash

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is typically transmitted by spreading respiratory particles (e.g. sneezing or coughing), which ejects droplets of the microscopic aerosols from the lungs. These mucus droplets have a high volume-to-surface ratio and dry fast, so that wet and dry virus particles come in contact with a surface.

Scientists examined virus-like particles on both dry and humid glass surfaces. They found relatively little variation between humidity levels on the surfaces. But scientists point out that humidity potentially matters when the particles in the air by impacting how easily the aerosols dry out.