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Can drop in temperature impact Covid-19 spread? Know from health expert

A recent study pointed to more severe cases in cold and dry weather. Do these findings suggest COVID-19 is seasonal? Experts disagree. We spoke to Dr. Rohit Caroli, senior consultant at Apollo Hospital to know the truth.

Ridhi Suri Ridhi Suri
New Delhi Updated on: November 24, 2020 21:00 IST
Image Source : PTI

Coronavirus impact

The coronavirus or Covid-19 has led to a global pandemic which has affected millions worldwide. The key manifestations of Covid-19 ranges from mild respiratory symptoms, fever, flu to multiorgan failure and death. Research shows there are more COVID-19 cases as temperature and humidity fall. Studies of the first SARS-CoV in 2003 suggest weather might be important for coronavirus spread. While this virus did not circulate long enough to establish any potential seasonal pattern, there are good reasons to expect a respiratory virus to show seasonal variation. Infections from influenza and respiratory syncytial virus are more common during winter in temperate areas of the world but the symptoms of COVID-19 and flu can range from mild to severe.

It is important to note that the World Health Organization (WHO) have classified mild symptoms of COVID-19 to mean that a person will not require hospitalization. The WHO classify mild cases to consist of symptoms including:

• fever
• cough
• fatigue
• loss of appetite
• sore throat
• headache

The CDC also lists the following as potential symptoms:
• breathlessness
• muscle pain
• chills
• new loss of taste or smell

A recent study pointed to more severe cases in cold and dry weather. Do these findings suggest COVID-19 is seasonal? To understand deeper, India TV spoke to Dr Rohit Caroli, senior consultant Apollo Hospital. 

Q- Will this drop in temperature affect the Covid-19 impact or spread? or Does the cold weather have an impact on Covid-19?

A- The effect of Covid would be not primary but secondary, it means that usually with the weather change, the temperature transition is too much, day time it is 24-25°C while in night it drops to 8-9 degress, so the temperature drop will lead to normal viral infection or a seasonal change Bronchitis, sneezing phenomena, which usually happens. Thus, it is because of these symptoms the spread might happen. And if by-chance the patient has Covid infection, he is more suspectable to spread the covid infection as immunity level goes down with the temperature drop. 

Q- As the Covid cases are on the rise, the people who are quarantined at home after catching flu or normal viral, what are the warning signs for them that they should see a doctor?

A- Any person who has symptoms of cough, sneezing, loss of smell, loss of taste or any breathing issue, which is out of proportion is normally due to seasonal change, should always take a medical consult in spite of whatever remedy they are taking on their own or by Aarogya Setu app, they should see a doctor. 

He further added, "I won't suggest the physical consultation but virtually or online. Physically, one can see a doctor when there is a saturation in their oxygen level. Some people who are old or have acute symptoms, should definitely consult a doctor either by video or call. These people should also get them tested for Covid-19 virus by RT-PCR or by Rapid antigen test. And subsequently, if they turn out to be positive, they should quarantine themselves and the people they met in the last 5-7 days."

Thus, I will not suggest all the patients should visit a hospital or clinic, because with the physical contact, the chances of spreading the virus may increase. So one can have a online consultation with their respective physician, doctor or nearby medical facility. In case, of any symptoms not being settled down, one must immediately visit a hospital and take the medical help as any delay in medical helps can lead to trouble. 

Q- How can one keep a watch on their oxygen level?

A- First is 'Pulse Oxymeter', is a noninvasive and painless test that measures your oxygen saturation level, or the oxygen levels in your blood. Second, if the oxygen level is dropping, there is some subjective symptoms because objectively we are not measuring the oxygen, so no one can tell it is 95 or 90. But yes, if there is heaviness in chest or one feels suffocate or being breathless with the normal or the daily activity-- bathing or washing clothes--which the person was used to do but now they feel more exhausted or fatigue doing it, then there is likely a chance of dropping the oxygen. 

Q- As the temperature drops further, how can one save their lungs from the cold weather, pollution and Covid? 

A- First, the cold is there, then we have dust particles and obviously pollution and Air quality index is also bad, so for that matter one will have a cumulative effect. Along with COVID, the normal virus that comes with the season change is also there, so the best thing would be minimum movement outside the home. If it is not essential one should stay at home. Only if it is essential you should prefer to move out. Most importantly, avoid overcrowded places at market and shop. One should maintain social distancing and should have a proper hand hygiene. 

Talking about the wearing of masks, the doctor said, "mask plays an important role of filtering the dust, and even the virus as the infection is usually spread by droplets in the air. There should not be any casual approach to wearing mask, hand sanitisation and social distancing as prevention is better than cure and these are the best preventive measure rather than we ask for cure and the medicines."

Q- When can the vaccines be made available and what is the efficacy of the vaccines?

A-Vaccine is a research product, any disease whether it is a small pox, chicken pox, hepatitis, needs plan and research and vaccines at a community level requires research and the trials. Different trials are needed to be done on volunteers and subjects, in phase 1, phase 2 and phase 3 and whole world is trying their level best with all scientist and researchers working on the same but predictions for vaccines can be a difficult question to ask because several nations have been working on the vaccines and trials are going on. While my point on that is, it will vary with the genetic make up of an individual, so a vaccine to get standardize for a general population should clear all the phase trials, which is very important because once it is in the market, it will be consumed by all the population rapidly and as soon as possible. So, the safety aspect and practical approach has to be adressed. 

Exact timeline is a very difficult thing, ICMR, pfizer and others are doing the research, until they are through with the proper clearance from the complication aspect, the vaccine will take sometime. I hope in another 6 months to 1 year we will have the vaccine but again it is difficult to say how the population will behave, because it will given to the volunteers first and then the frontliners. The vaccine too have the minimum complication and side effects. Right now, it is difficult to say which vaccine and how it will work. In the news, the research is there, but they are not very precised when it is going to come until and unless it is really in the market and working right. 

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Talking about the warning signs for COVID patience, Dr. Rohit said "COVID-19 and the flu can cause similar symptoms. However, there are several differences but both COVID and the flu are respiratory illnesses that spread from person to person. Tiny droplets containing the viruses can pass from someone with the infection to someone else, typically through the nose and mouth through coughing and sneezing.

The virus can also live on surfaces. The WHO is not sure exactly how long the virus can survive, but it could be days.

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