IF YOU WERE HOPING THE SUMMER HEAT WOULD STOP THE CORONAVIRUS IN ITS TRACKS, THINK AGAIN, EXPERTS SAY.
Temperature’s impact on the coronavirus has been a hotly debated topic these days. Many people take comfort in believing that warm weather will have a significant impact on the COVID-19 contagion, but it may not be as simple as that. Yes, studies have shown that intense heat can kill many viruses—including coronaviruses, the family of viruses that COVID-19 belongs to. But how hot exactly does it need to be for that to happen?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “heat at 56°C [132.8°F] kills the SARS coronavirus at around 10000 units per 15 minutes.” The SARS coronavirus behaves similarly to COVID-19, which leads experts to believe that the novel coronavirus would have a similar fate at that temperature.
How does it work exactly? Well, heat is thought to affect the coronavirus in part because it is an enveloped virus with a lipid bilayer. According to BBC, “research on other enveloped viruses suggests that this oily coat makes the viruses more susceptible to heat than those that do not have one.”
Since outdoor temperatures rarely reach anywhere near 132.8°F, however, experts do not believe warmer weather will have any significant impact on the novel coronavirus. “While we may expect modest declines in the contagiousness of SARS-CoV-2 in warmer, wetter weather … is not reasonable to expect these declines alone to slow transmission enough to make a big dent,” writes Marc Lipsitch, DPhil, director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
So, while you shouldn’t assume the summer heat will crush the coronavirus on its own, you can use heat to kill COVID-19 in other ways. For example, if you cook your food at 132.8°F or higher, the heat would be able to eliminate traces of the coronavirus on your food, according to research physician Christine Traxler, MD, of Invigor Medical.
Similarly, “if you do your laundry and dry on high heat for an hour, the virus is probably dead,” says Traxler.
Additionally, boiled water can be effective against coronavirus. Water boils at 100°C (212°F) and a dishwasher’s final rinse cycle is generally around 71.1°C (160°F), which makes it the ideal place to disinfect everything from children’s toys to sponges.
So, while boiled water or the temperature inside your dishwasher or dryer can help combat the coronavirus, high summer temperatures likely don’t have the same effect.