Fact Check: Can Heavy Rains Increase Spread of Covid-19?

  • A medical personnel holding a Covid-19 virus test kit.
    A medical personnel holding a Covid-19 virus test kit.
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  • Kenya Meteorological Department on Tuesday, March 24 announced that the country will experience heavy rainfall and possible flash floods in some parts of the country.

    Following the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus in Kenya and the rest of the world, researchers along with governments have been on their toes in trying to tame the pandemic.

    There have since been reports alleging that low temperatures along with heavy rainfall may hasten the spread of the virus.

    Motorists drive through the flooded Nyerere Avenue in Mombasa after heavy rains in May 2017.
    Motorists drive through the flooded Nyerere Avenue in Mombasa after heavy rains in May 2017.
    Daily Nation

    Speaking to Kenyans.co.ke Assistant Director of Public Health Raphael Muli dispelled any fears regarding the rise in infections during the rainy season.

    "There is nothing to be worried about. Yesterday we experienced rainfall, our temperatures were at 21 degrees Celsius, and I can assure you that the government is doing everything to ensure the virus is contained," Muli stated.

    He further assured that the government had put in place measures that will ensure the cases of infection scale down, adding that Kenyans had nothing to fear with regards to the virus aggravating during the rains.

    Daily Nation on March 26 reported that since the beginning of the week temperatures from most parts of the country have been on the decline, giving an indication of the impending rainy season. Other regions, such as Central Kenya have experienced temperatures of as low as 4.6 degrees Celcius.

    This reportedly creating fears that the spread of the Covid-19 virus may aggravate during this season.

    A study that was conducted on severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (Sars-Cov-2) established that the virus thrives best in low temperatures.

    This adding to the norm, people often easily catch flu or cold during cold seasons.

    A study by Advances in Virology in 2011, established that that dried viruses resting on wooden surfaces remained active for up to five days between temperatures of 22 to 25 degrees celsius.  It further stated that the effects of the virus declined upon reaching 38 degrees Celsius and above.

    "We and others have reported that the infectivity of Sars Cov was lost in hot temperatures of 56 degrees celsius," the study states.

    Medical practitioners at a Coronavirus isolation and treatment facility in Mbagathi District Hospital on Friday, March 6, 2020.
    Medical practitioners at a Coronavirus isolation and treatment facility in Mbagathi District Hospital on Friday, March 6, 2020.
    Simon Kiragu
    KENYANS.CO.KE

    On March 9, US publication Denver Post put out an article on how the warm dry weather in the state of Colorado would help in slowing down the spread of the virus.

    Thomas Jaenisch, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Colorado School of Public Health argued that warm and dry weather could contain the spread of the virus, along with the necessary hygiene measures.

    “It’s based on pure physics. How long can those droplets be in the air and not fall down? This depends on how big the droplets are, the ambient temperature, the moisture,

    “The idea is when it is dry and hot, then these droplets fall down faster. When it is moist and colder, then the droplets can stay in the air suspended and can be taken in by another human,“ Jaenisch stated.

    "But we don’t know really know enough about the features of the virus to really be sure,” he added.

    He further stated that, since the virus was also transmitted via respiratory droplets, the droplet airborne transmission is more effective in a cold, moist climate.

    The studies further note that the spread of the virus was likely to be affected by temperature, wind and relative humidity, further adding it was mainly spread by contact and respiratory droplets The virus can be detected in one's body fluids and waste.

    Kenya has in the past grappled with flooding sewers, further raising concerns of the virus spreading through aerosolization of infected human waste.

    If the country experiences the flash floods as announced by Kenya Met, then the stagnant floodwaters in the city slums and other parts of the country may result in further infection.

    World Health Organisation has since informed that Covid-19 is a newly discovered pathogen and still in its infancy, therefore, not yet fully established. Members of the public are advised to follow the measures issued by the government on preventing the spread of the virus.

    A photo of Health CS Mutahi Kagwe addressing the media outside Afya House on March 18, 2020.
    Health CS Mutahi Kagwe addressing the media outside Afya House on March 18, 2020.
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