PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, preliminary research suggested that high temperatures might be able to kill the virus like other similar, yet seasonal, viruses.
Coming out of a heat wave where our region saw several days of scorching heat and blazing sunlight and with coronavirus cases surging at the same time, KDKA asked infectious disease experts: is that theory true?
Medical experts said they don’t think so, but as we learn more about this virus that thinking could change.
Dr. Raymond Pontzer, UPMC St. Margaret’s Chief of Infectious Disease, told KDKA there’s actually not enough “heat in and of itself” on this planet to kill the coronavirus and “you have to have a higher temperature than you can get in our atmosphere. Eighty or 90 degrees doesn’t kill the virus.”
Instead, to put the virus on a summer slow down, Dr. Pontzer said it may take a combination of heat, UV, exposure and humidity.
He said humid conditions form a protective barrier in our mucus membranes might help.
“You breathe the virus in through your nose and when your throat is dry, it seems that may make the virus more virulent, more able to infect you,” said Dr. Pontzer.
But the doctor said these are only theories and that he has noticed little physical evidence that these conditions could actually reduce the coronavirus to a seasonal cycle.
To better understand COVID-19’s next moves, Dr. Pontzer said researchers are studying patterns of other respiratory viruses, like the 1918 influenza pandemic, that took years to slow down.
“It started in the spring and it went through the summer months and into the fall with the first wave. It had four waves and went over two years until it went into a seasonal pattern,” said Dr. Pontzer.
While only time will tell if the heat can truly mitigate the virus, Dr. Pontzer said one thing’s for sure — social distancing and masking up definitely does.