A Diversion

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Here’s an odd occurrence; out of genuine curiosity I posted a question on Twitter: “Does anybody know if there is any truth in the claim coronavirus is killed by high temperatures?” I had in mind a comment I saw stating the virus’ nemesis is heat – if we get a hot summer, we have the cure. My initial reaction – an urban myth.

Got to thinking: people are dying in hot countries such as Spain, so I thought it cannot be that. However, I wondered if the claim had veracity, perhaps very hot water kills it, or like an art print on a wall, it fades quickly if subjected to strong sunlight. Then I thought, that cannot be right; too much sun causes skin cancers.

Within seconds of tweeting my question the first answers began to appear on my timeline. While the majority stated it was fake news, just plain wrong, I began to notice grades of answers. People wanted to help by offering an opinion, some perhaps didn’t know the answer but wanted to put me out of my misery. A few threw the question back in the form of another question. Others seemed more confident, better informed  A few posted a link to some expert or other who had the answer.

What would sociologists make of the replies? Readers will make of them what they will. I see them as an example of how you have to assess a person’s character to know if they are talking nonsense, being thoughtful, or an expert in the subject. The spread of answers is entertaining.

I have graded them from unsure to certain. Names are omitted to protect the guilty.

  1. It’s bollocks.
  2. Trump!
  3. Tripe!
  4. Read some time ago it wasn’t true
  5. Well Trump said it so it must be true!!!!!!!!
  6. Vietnam is in lock-down – hot as the fires of hell there!
  7. Has it been less effective in warmer countries?
  8. They huvnae found that in Singapore.
  9. I have been outside today, 4 degrees glorious sun hail and a gale force wind, and still every chance of contracting it.
  10. They said the same about the plague and look how many died due to that.
  11. Fake news …various news channels have quoted it as such.
  12. Australia is pretty warm at the moment. Doesn’t seem to make a difference!
  13. It’s infecting people in Africa & Australia so i think it’s pish btw!
  14. If the hot weather kills the virus, how come Australia has it?
  15. No. There’s no clear evidence for this. Which is good news for Scottish folk.
  16. Why is it rampant in hot countries then?
  17. Doubt it, Spain’s mortality rate is going through the roof.
  18. It doesn’t seem to be the case in Spain or Italy.
  19. Tell you what, if that’s true Eskimos must be shitting themselves.
  20. How can there be truth in it, it’s in Australia and other hot countries.
  21. Regardless of climate, adopt protective measures. Wash your hands.
  22. I read something showing that tropical conditions are the worst for coronavirus.
  23. Well it’s running rampant in Australia so that kinda shoots holes in that theory.
  24. Ask the Australians if the virus hates heat, it’s their summer and are in lockdown.
  25. Yup that’s why they don’t have the virus in places like India and Spain – oh wait.
  26. If the world is getting cooler how does the temperature of the world keep going up?
  27. It’s based on how similar viruses react.
  28. Huge upsurge in Florida over 109 dead.
  29. According to The Economist’s Science Editor, this is not true.
  30. It still seems prominent in some hotter countries though, like Iran.
  31. Here is a paper on this: [Quotes expert source.]
  32. It’s false! Same as steaming your lungs is and drinking water every 20 mins is.
  33. That’s wishful thinking, but as with all respiratory infections lower humidity helps?
  34. There is not enough data. The virus is mutating so be wary of thinking temperature may be the cure. Some UV light can kill viruses, but it’s also damaging to humans.
  35. It’s in Singapore I lived there and if it didn’t like heat it wouldn’t have been there.
  36. Australia, Spain, Italy, Louisiana, Florida, etc etc have warmer climates now than we will have in our summer. The sun doesn’t seem to be protecting them.
  37. If true Louisiana wouldn’t be severely impacted. Unfounded bollocks, in my view.
  38. Then the southern hemisphere would be okay. Think that was an early assumption it was like other flu viruses, but doesn’t seem to be the case.
  39. Hotter countries have giant ice cold air conditioned malls and offices which are the breeding grounds right now.
  40. No truth whatsoever. The virus has run rampant in the southern hemisphere where it is summer temperatures.
  41. Not according to Aljazzeer, South America reaching 30 degrees – virus going strong.
  42. I know they have cold regions this time of year, but I’d be more than a wee bit cautious with the rates in Italy, Spain, Iran, India.
  43. Australia has the virus. I wouldn’t believe summer weather would kill it.
  44. According to research by Singapore, the virus lasts varying amounts of time on surfaces depending on the temperature. Lower temps are bad news for us, but as the temperature rises it lives less. i.e. at 30C it still lasts for a 3/4 hours or so, but at 50C less than 30 minutes.
  45. Ebola a virus found in Africa seems to survive pretty well in a hot humid environment. Sunshine theory is nonsense.
  46. Folk have been saying that for ages, mostly because it’s one of Trump’s previous excuses not to do anything about it. Haven’t seen anything to back it up,
  47. Research is being updated all the time. I’m not sure we’ll know everything for weeks or months yet. Obviously it’s best to assume the worst and plan accordingly.
  48. Not certain where I am its 34c so far it has not stopped the virus only way is to stay well away from others and break the transmission.
  49. The virus is very resistant; hugely contagious and mutates readily.
  50. Vitamin-D (mainly derived from sun exposure) boosts your immune system, and having a good immune system is quite key going forward regardless of whether the virus likes heat or not. If we all sit indoors we will be deprived of vitamin D.
  51. I heard that too… then wondered how Spain and Italy are suffering so much – and Antarctica is the only place with no virus – still trying to work this out!!
  52. No. Countries hotter than ours clearly have problems. It probably stems from the observation that we tend to suffer more viral infections such as colds in winter.
  53. I don’t think heat makes a difference the UV rays might, I wonder if there’s any expert advice about this as it’s a good point.
  54. It may well be killed by boiling water. Doubt the “extreme” heat of a Scottish summer will cause it to pause in it’s tracks.
  55. Two facts being conflated to form a 3rd non-fact. 1. Coronaviruses don’t survive direct contact with heat or detergent. Hence hand-washing 2. Health services are always under more strain in winter months so hotter climes make it easier for NHS to cope. 3. Sunbathing won’t kill it.
  56. UV light kills microbes. Not sure the temperate heat would affect it much though as viruses aren’t really alive until they attach to a host cell.
  57. Apparently not a lot of truth in it. Even in hot weather our bodies maintain a fairly constant internal temperature, and that is where it lives.
  58. There are some marginal pointers heat and humidity might be a good deterrent but it’s not proven. I’m in Thailand and death rates low but cases around 100+ per day.
  59. I have heard it said but I don’t know how reliable it is. If it’s true I’m going to get a sun tan bed so I don’t have to wait for the sun nearly all summer.
  60. I’m sure Kenya and the Equitorial countries that have Covid19 would disagree. However the Vitamin D with sunshine does wonders for immunity and respiratory issues so Sunbathe if and when you can!
  61. Dr. John Campbell does a very straightforward report on YouTube each day. Breaks down figures etc. Worth watching!
  62. Prof Jason Leitch said it doesn’t like heat; it CAN survive, but is less able to in 20-22 degree heat, hence fewer flu viruses in summer.
  63. I’ve read that viruses generally hate relative humidity – virus particles pick up moisture, become heavy and fall to earth faster. [Quotes source.]
  64. Check out the hot countries at the bottom of the list .. it’s struggling to get a grip. We need another heatwave, like the one we got in 2018.
  65. Read somewhere the virus doesn’t like temperatures above 26\27c.
  66. Read temperature needs to be 80 degrees!
  67. Heat degrades outer layer of proteins, tis said.
  68. I heard the way to fight it off was alkaline foods.
  69. Nobody knows really.
  70. And finally, the expert: Well, mibbes naw: https://t.co/6LaDKY2O7U?amp=1

Thank you one and all. There were over 100 replies but I think the above selection is a good representation. In a way it’s good to see so much healthy scepticism. Wish you were as well informed of Scotland’s democratic deficit as some are of the life of Covid19.

Balmy days are coming, with temperatures forecast to reach 20C in some regions. The warm weather will bring welcome respite to lock-down Britain – and put pressure on authorities trying to control crowds and gatherings. However, scientists also believe warm weather could bring new insights into the virus by showing whether it reacts to the onset of spring. Flu epidemics tend to die out as winter ends; could sunshine, similarly, affect the behaviour of the coronavirus and its spread? It is a key question, and epidemiologists will be watching for changes very closely.

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3 Responses to A Diversion

  1. Wouldn’t it be nice if Sturgeon had the same tenacity for independence, as this virus seems to have for infecting people?

  2. Andrew Coulson says:

    I shouldn’t give in to this temptation, and, no, I haven’t read through all 70 of your sample replies, but: if you want to start thinking clearly about viral infections, including this one, you should stop talking about how the virus ‘responds’, or asking what it can ‘survive’, or asking how to ‘kill’ it, or what it ‘likes’. Viruses are not living things, they don’t react, they don’t ‘do’ anything or ‘respond’ to anything. Viruses are assemblies of a few specific large molecules: living things are hundreds or thousands of times more complex. A copper kettle is not a simple type of power station, even though they both feature boiling water.
    The question you were really interested in is ‘how do the characteristics of the disease caused by coronavirus change with the seasons?’ Whether the virus particle is disrupted by particular temperatures, high or low, has very little bearing on this question: after all, most virus particles are at 37 C for most of the time.
    There are only two possible end-points for an epidemic — elimination or accommodation. Think of the UK’s response in dialectic terms:
    Thesis: ‘Fight the invader’. Unfortunately, we were driven from the field a month ago.
    Antithesis: ‘Hunker down’ and wait for immunity/vaccine/antidote. Unfortunately, a year of this would leave our civilization in ruins (see John Lanchester’s ‘The Wall’ for further details).
    Synthesis: ‘The Threefold Way’ The government will try to create three parallel worlds
    – Voluntary house arrest for the particularly vulnerable (mostly not producers in the economy). That’s where my partner and I will live until there is a vaccine, or an antidote, or ‘herd immunity’, or a very low incidence of the disease in the ‘normality’ world.
    – The kingdom of the virus, inhabited by the very virus-ill, by those who live and die in care homes and prisons: and by those who look after them there. This is a place of horror.
    – The new normality, as much like the old one as possible, inhabited by everyone else. With time, fewer and fewer people will pass from this world to the viral kingdom.
    Where do you propose to live?

  3. Grouse Beater says:

    Well, yes to all that, but it wasn’t the question I wanted answered. The one you ponder is your question.

    Like the fake news of G5 masts being the problem – there are idiots damaging the masts – I keep seeing ‘heat can kill the virus’ – a pretty straight forward uncomplicated statement. As far as I understand, a virus stays in your body irrespective of what it causes, such as a cancer, even if the cancer cells are cut out and removed the virus stays with you.

    That aside, I was keen to learn if on an inanimate surface, cloth, metal, plastic, will excessive heat wipe it out?

    Of the bulk of your comments, particularly the last third: when mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell was on his way to give a lecture in Norway his plane downed in the sea close to the shore. He managed to swim to land. When the press gathered around him one reporter asked, “When you were in the sea did you think of dialectical materialism?” Russell answered, “Erm, No. I thought the water very cold.”

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