The lingering second COVID-19 wave and the current weather — combination of high heat and humidity prevailing across some parts of India — has prompted doctors to caution the general public to strictly follow COVID-19 appropriate behaviour to ensure that places with common air conditioning and poor ventilation do not prove to be a super-spreader zone.

The effect of worsened weather on an ongoing illness contributed in terms of aggravated symptoms, said Anurag Aggarwal, Associate Consultant Internal Medicine, QRG Health City, Faridabad, who added that there was no proven research of how the virus responded to weather conditions.

“During the on-going second wave, increased complications were noticed mainly because of mutations and changing form of the virus which perhaps made it more infectious and virulent. General measures like cleaning hands with sanitizer or soap, avoiding crowded places, maintaining social distance, getting vaccinated and wearing masks are protective regardless of weather continue to be vital,’’ he said.

Suranjit Chatterjee, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, added that the current weather gave rise to problems and diseases like heat stroke/exhaustion, typhoid, jaundice and malaria.

Bhagwan Mantri, consultant, pulmonology, Moolchand Hospital, noted that lower relative humidity aids airborne transmission of water droplets and aerosols.

“When we cough, sneeze, talk or sing, water droplets and smaller water particles (aerosols) containing living viruses disperse into the air. Droplets and aerosols tend to stay afloat longer and travel farther in the air with lower relative humidity. Virus-containing aerosols, in particular, can penetrate more deeply into the lungs to increase the possibility of transmission,” he said.

“When moisture levels are insufficient, viral particles have a greater ‘docking’ potential at airway receptor sites, which can lead to an increased risk of infection. Low relative humidity has a drying effect on the cells and mucous linings of our airways. These cells act as a defence against viral particles and other invading foreign substances. Drying out airway linings impairs their ability to function properly,” he explained.

However, he also suggested that adherence to COVID-19 appropriate behaviour is the only way to reduce the transmission risk in any atmospheric condition.

Doctors are also advocating vaccinations, use of mask, hand-hygiene and social distancing as the pillars to guard against the virus.

“One should follow COVID-19 appropriate steps to protect yourself and those around you throughout the year,” said Madhu Handa, Medical Director, Moolchand Hospital.

Source: 11 July, 2021, The Hindu