With the new Coronavirus now officially recognized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization and with cases being recorded in over 100 countries, it’s not surprising that everyone is talking about it. With that comes a lot of misconceptions too, however, so we’ve seen too many inaccuracies around the public forum. So, we did a bit of research and we thought we’d quickly hit on some of the basics around the COVID-19 virus and see if it can be affected by altering room temperatures and humidity levels.
COVID-19 is the new type of coronavirus that first jumped from animals to people in the Wuhan province of China. When we say that it’s a new type of coronavirus we mean that the term “coronavirus” actually refers to a broad type of respiratory diseases, many of which we’re are quite familiar with – the common cold is actually a type of coronavirus, we simply haven’t referred to it this way so the term was still unfamiliar to a lot of people.
The fact that COVID-19 is similar to other coronaviruses such as the common flu doesn’t make it easy to deal with, however. None of the vaccines and cures we have for other similar viruses work on COVID-19 and a new vaccine is expected to take between 12 and 18 months to develop. This means that slowing the spread of the virus and minimizing its effects is of the utmost importance in the months to come.
COVID-19 spreads similarly to the seasonal flu and other respiratory diseases – the virus usually travels from person to person on tiny droplets of water that are released when we breathe, sneeze or cough. Coming in physical contact with the virus doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get diseased, however – the virus needs to enter your system and not just touch your skin. The most common entry points for COVID-19 are our eyes, nose, and mouth which is why you’ve heard everyone telling people to wash their hands regularly and not to touch their eyes, nose, and mouth – because getting the virus from your hands to your face is the most common way for it to spread.
Lifespan of the new Coronavirus on surfaces
With more and more people being aware of the dangers of COVID-19, most cases of spreading the disease don’t happen by one person sneezing in another person’s face. Instead, the virus usually spreads when people touch surfaces that have been previously touched by infected people and get the virus on their hands, and from there – on their faces.
Fortunately, the lifespan of COVID-19 on surfaces is not indefinite – even if a surface isn’t cleaned, the virus on it will die eventually. Unfortunately, this can take some time. The lifetime of the virus depends on the type of the surface they are on – on porous surfaces such as clothes and wallets, it’s as little as 3-4 hours, however, on flat and smooth surfaces COVID-19 can survive for a couple of days.
This means that you shouldn’t just wash your hands frequently, as to not spread the virus to your face or other surfaces, but that you should often clean the things you touch regularly as well. Phones are a big problem in that regard as we’re constantly touching them and their flat and hard surfaces allow the virus to survive for a long time.
That’s why one of the best things you can do is to regularly clean your phone with a wet alcohol wipe. Not playing too much with your phone is also generally a good idea, especially when you’re outside and you haven’t washed your hands in a while.
Other surfaces to avoid include pretty much everything that’s being accessible to other people recently – door handles, the handles in the public transport, money, and so on. If and when you do have to come in contact with such surfaces, washing your hands immediately after that is advisable, especially before you touch something else or your face.
Can temperature and humidity in the room affect the lifespan of Coronavirus?
A study from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China has determined that COVID-19 is indeed affected by changes in temperature. The most suitable temperature for the transmission of the disease seems to be 8.72°C or 47.69°F.
This doesn’t mean that the virus is killed at higher temperatures, however – COVID-19 has been observed spreading and thriving at all types of environments – from cold and dry ones to hot places with high humidity. So, while there is hope that the spread of the virus will slow down with the coming warmer months in the Northern Hemisphere, there’s little hope that it will stop completely.
As for the indoor spreading of the virus in our homes and offices, there is no data to suggest that raising the temperature or the humidity in a room will stop the virus in any way. Instead, what most professionals recommend is that we set the temperature and humidity in our environments to levels that are comfortable to us and our other pre-existing conditions.
If we make sure that we’re in as good of a physical condition as possible at all times, we’ll increase the chances of handling the diseases well if we happen to contract it. So far, the COVID-19 virus seems most dangerous with older people, for people with compromised immune systems, and for those with other cardiac or respiratory conditions. Obese people are also at a higher risk.
Can the virus be transferred through air conditioning systems?
According to Professor Leo Yee Sin, executive director of the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID), there is no data to suggest that COVID-19 can spread through AC systems.
Some studies showed COVID-19 can be found in isolation facilities which sparked the fear that it can be transmitted through ventilation and air conditioning systems, however, the AC systems in these facilities were different than residential and commercial air conditioning systems. According to Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, director of medical services at the Ministry of Health, there’s no evidence that COVID-19 is airborne.
“It’s not the same situation as in a home where you have an air-conditioning vent and you assume therefore it’s airborne. This is not. This is predominantly still droplet transmission.” Professor Mak said.
Tips to avoid getting infected
As we learn more about the virus we learn more prevention and protection tips but here’s a quick rundown of what scientists have found works best so far:
- Wash your hands regularly and with soap. Wash them for at least 20 seconds at a time and do that every time if you’ve been outside, around people, after you’ve touched surfaces outdoor, or after going to the bathroom. Also, wash your hands every time before you eat and before touching your face.
- When you’re outside and you can’t wash your hands, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
- Use those same alcohol-based sanitizers to clean certain objects you handle too often when you’re outside such as your phone, your wallet, and your keys. Additionally, try not to play with your phone too much when you’re outside – there’s no point smearing it with viruses needlessly.
- Regularly clean certain surfaces at home too – your table, your kitchen counters, and other surfaces you touch too often, especially after you get home.
- Sneeze and cough into your sleeve rather than in your hand.
- Avoid contact with anyone who has flu-like symptoms. If you can, avoid unnecessary contact with people in general as COVID-19 can be spread even by people who aren’t displaying any symptoms. Avoid contact with people who’ve been traveling recently, especially to places with known COVID-19 outbreaks.
- Stay at home if you’re sick – you don’t want to spread the disease any further and endanger the lives of those around you.
- If you suffer from other respiratory or cardiac pre-existing conditions or if your immune system is compromised – avoid any contact with people.