Here comes the sun – people in sunnier areas face a lower risk of COVID-19 death – Innovita Research

Here comes the sun – people in sunnier areas face a lower risk of COVID-19 death

We are trying to see the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. It feels like it’s been so long since we could gather and partake in our usual social activities without the fear of spreading this dangerous disease. Maybe summer will help lift some of the burden of COVID-19 spread?

Scientists from the University of Edinburgh found that sunnier areas are associated with fewer deaths from Covid-19.

There were fewer COVID-19-related deaths in sunnier areas. Image credit: Basile Morin via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19 disease, can be killed by various disinfectants, including soap and alcohol. But it also dies from direct UV exposure. Sun’s rays, obviously, are 95 % UVA light, which is why scientists were curious to see whether sunnier areas are linked to a lower COVID-19 mortality. While this is just an observational study, it does provide quite a bit of hope for the future as the Northern Hemisphere is entering the summer season.

Researchers compared all recorded deaths from Covid-19 in the continental US in the period between January to April 2020 to local UV levels. This study included 2,474 US counties. Of course, COVID-19 pandemic made healthcare institutions follow the spread of the virus very closely, which means that statistics are quite detailed. And UV levels are constantly observed for decades already.

Scientists found that people who live in the sunniest areas have  a lower risk of dying from Covid-19. This was confirmed with a parallel analysis of data from the UK and Italy. Scientists believe that this effect is due to UV light killing the virus and not the vitamin D associated with being in the sunlight. But it can also be related to the fact that skin reacts to the sunlight producing nitric oxide.

Sunlight causes  the skin to release nitric oxide, which reduces SARS-CoV-2 ability to replicate. Scientists have found this in some lab studies and this effect is most definitely at play in real life as well. However, this was just an observational study and drawing serious conclusions probably would be counterproductive.

Dr Richard Weller, one of the authors of the study, said: “There is still so much we don’t understand about Covid-19, which has resulted in so many deaths worldwide. These early results open up sunlight exposure as one way of potentially reducing the risk of death”.

This does provide some hope that this coming summer together with the ongoing vaccination programmes will bring some relief to people.

COVID-19 is not going to disappear overnight. It is here to stay for quite a bit longer. However, some help from nature is very welcome and hopefully will help us have a bit of a breather after this difficult period of pandemic worries. UV light kills viruses and our skin is missing some sun anyway, but still – remember to use sunscreen to avoid the risk of skin cancer.


Source: University of Edinburgh