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Dry weather could increase virus risk

1 month ago 21

Humidity plays a role in coronavirus transmission according to a new study.

Researchers say dry weather could forecast spikes in the virus after they analysed cases in NSW.

Looking at the COVID-19 surge in NSW in March and April, researchers said that when there was a one per cent decrease in the amount of water in the air, there was a 7.7 per cent increase in infections.

“We found that throughout the epidemic of COVID-19 in NSW, Australia − both during the exponential and descending phases of the epidemic − there was a consistent negative relationship between relative humidity and case occurrence,” the authors wrote in the study published in Transboundary and Emerging Diseases.

They said the association could occur because respiratory droplets lingered in the atmosphere or on surfaces for longer.

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The study’s co-author Professor Michael Ward, an epidemiologist at the University of Sydney, said while the state’s lockdown in February and March was a much more substantial contributor to stopping the outbreak, the same link between dry air and cases was there regardless.

“So we don’t think it had anything to do with the lockdown,” he told The Age.

“Every time we look at it, we find humidity is linked with cases. And we cannot really explain that any other way. I cannot come up with any other explanations.”

The authors highlighted that cases analysed in NSW predominantly occurred in autumn, while most coronavirus cases in the northern hemisphere have been reported during the winter and spring seasons.

But they said despite the seasons being different, the findings in the Australian autumn were consistent with that observed in the Chinese winter.

“Combined with evidence from studies in the northern hemisphere, the influence of relative humidity on COVID-19 incidence was found to be always negative in different regions, suggesting that the relationship could be universal: humidity is more sensitive to COVID-19 transmission and periods of lower humidity might forecast spikes in SARS-CoV-2 transmission,” they concluded.

“In the absence of a vaccine, such observations allow the more timely, efficient and effective deployment of public health interventions.”

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