Gender, Heat and Coronavirus
People, wearing medical masks are seen at the Galeao International Airport, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on February 26, 2020. (Fabio Teizeira/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Gender, Heat and Coronavirus

Al-Watan, Egypt, March 6

Will the coronavirus become weaker as temperatures rise? Several scientists have attempted to answer this question, as well as another important question: Why do women have a clear advantage over men in fighting COVID-19? Regarding the first question, there is disagreement on this issue to date. Some scientists believe that if everything goes well, the new virus might behave like influenza and stop spreading with the rise in temperatures during the spring and summer months. However, it’s still too early to predict how similar this virus is to the flu. Furthermore, unlike influenza, which almost everyone has come in contact with at some point, COVID-19 is a virus that is completely unknown to our immune systems. This, together with weather conditions in the Northern Hemisphere, set prime conditions for the rapid spread of the disease. Air humidity also affects the transmission of respiratory viruses. Once pathogens are expelled from the respiratory system through a sneeze, they become suspended in the air. In cold and dry winter days, small drops, along with viruses, float in the air for a longer period of time than when the humidity is high. Regarding the second question, the female sex hormone estrogen helps women cope with viral diseases. Some immune-linked genes have estrogen-binding sites where these genes are triggered, meaning that they are controlled by hormones. Therefore, women are less likely to contract certain diseases that men are prone to. The coronavirus season could very well end with the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, according to the World Health Organization. Yet the fact that both Australia and Brazil – two countries in the Southern Hemisphere where it currently is late summer/early fall – have seen cases of COVID-19 suggests that this debate has not been definitively settled. As we say goodbye to the cold and rainy days of the winter and begin to prepare for the Middle East’s long summer days, let us hope that this heat-related theory proves true. – Khaled Montaser (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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