Environmental Disease

: 2020  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1--2

Environmental factors in novel coronavirus outbreak

Kezhong Zhang 
 Molecular Medicine and Genetics, The Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, MI, USA

Correspondence Address:
Kezhong Zhang
540 E. Canfield Avenue, Detroit 48201, MI

How to cite this article:
Zhang K. Environmental factors in novel coronavirus outbreak.Environ Dis 2020;5:1-2

How to cite this URL:
Zhang K. Environmental factors in novel coronavirus outbreak. Environ Dis [serial online] 2020 [cited 2023 Feb 6 ];5:1-2
Available from: http://www.environmentmed.org/text.asp?2020/5/1/1/283010

Full Text

Coronaviruses (CoVs) are a large family of viruses known to cause illness ranging from the common cold to deadly diseases, such as Middle East respiratory syndrome-CoV, severe acute respiratory syndrome-CoV (SARS-CoV), and currently, a novel CoV, CoV-2019 (COVID-19). CoVs are likely originated from animals, but some of them gain abilities of transmitting between animals and people. Common manifestations of CoV infection in human are primarily involved in respiratory symptoms, including fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.[1]

COVID-19 outbreaks have been observed globally.[2] The speed and extent of COVID-19 spreading are unprecedented. This is an unchartered territory to the public health professionals, scientists, and policymakers. We have never before seen a respiratory pathogen that is capable of rapid community transmission in our modern history. As the numbers of confirmed cases and countries of outbreaks keep rising, worldwide pandemic of this new virus seems inevitable.

Experts agree that we have a great deal to learn, but environmental factors play an important role in the emergence, evolving, transmission, and spreading of this highly threatening pathogen. Three basic and major modes of person-to-person transmission of respiratory viruses include contact transmission, droplet spray transmission, and aerosol transmission. Consistent with the transmission modes, environmental reservoirs of pathogens, such as a tainted work surface or pool of water, are crucial. Further, it has been determined that environmental factors, including precipitation, humidity, confined space, ambient and indoor temperature, and airflow, are the major determinants that affect the transmission of respiratory viruses.[3] Based on the previous studies, the environmental factors involving the SARS epidemic include seasonal temperature change, passage of time, and multiplicative effect of hospital infection.[4] Since respiratory diseases are more common in late winter and early spring, the occurrence of CoV might, at least partially, be determined by environmental factors. This could be due to decreased resistance of the respiratory system to pathogens in a relatively colder and low-humidity environment. In addition, in the cold season, a warm indoor environment may increase the infection rate. When it turns into a warmer climate, the virus might not be able to withstand the environmental changes, leading to the decay of its virulence.

The “emergence-and-decline” feature of the CoV is similar to the influenza virus.[5] It has been observed that the degree of air pollution, specifically, the concentrations of airborne fine particulate matters (PM2.5) are significantly associated with human influenza cases in urban Beijing.[6] An ecological study also demonstrated a positive association between air pollution and SARS fatality in Chinese population.[7] It is important to evaluate whether PM2.5 concentrations are correlated with the transmission of COVID-19 virus.

Understanding of the environmental factors involved in the emergence, prevention, and elimination of COVID-19 is of great value in the control of COVID-19 spread. Further studies on this subject are in urgent need, and the information obtained from these studies will be critically important to both environmental policymaking and public health preparedness.


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