What’s the correlation between cold temperatures and viruses? A WakeMed specialist explains


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The coronavirus and flu viruses have the ability to spread through the air from person to person mainly through coughs and sneezes.

Jessica Dixon, an Infection Prevention Specialist at WakeMed, agrees. 

“They fly through the air and they land on, or near you; and you get them in your eyes, ears, or mouth and that’s how you get sick.” 

But why do we normally see illnesses like the flu during the late fall and winter months? One thought is that in colder weather, people are indoors more and with close proximity to others.  

Dixon agrees: “Certainly when people are inside and closer together, that’s a component of it. But there’s also the component of the virus itself and viruses tend to survive better at cooler temperatures and lower humidity.”

The National Institutes of Health studied the makeup of the flu virus and found out how the flu virus responds to temperatures. 

They found that the outer layer of a flu virus is made up of mainly oils and fats. This outer layer is gel-like in temperatures cooler than seventy degrees. Above 70 degrees, the viruses’ outer layer starts to become liquid.  

In liquid form, the virus cannot protect itself from elements in the atmosphere and the flu virus weakens and dies out.

“It’s a lot harder for the virus to survive when the temperatures are high and when the humidity is higher,” Dixon said.

So the big question is, does that translate to the coronavirus (COVID-19)?   

“There is some hope that once the weather changes that we will see a decrease in incidents of the COVID-19 virus. I think it’s too soon to say for sure,” Dixon said.

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