Seasonality of Non-SARS, Non-MERS Coronaviruses and the Impact of Meteorological Factors

Background: Seasonality is a characteristic of some respiratory viruses. The aim of our study was to evaluate the seasonality and the potential effects of different meteorological factors on the detection rate of the non-SARS coronavirus detection by PCR.

Methods: We performed a retrospective analysis of 12,763 respiratory tract sample results (288 positive and 12,475 negative) for non-SARS, non-MERS coronaviruses (NL63, 229E, OC43, HKU1). The effect of seven single weather factors on the coronavirus detection rate was fitted in a logistic regression model with and without adjusting for other weather factors.

Results: Coronavirus infections followed a seasonal pattern peaking from December to March and plunged from July to September. The seasonal effect was less pronounced in immunosuppressed patients compared to immunocompetent patients. Different automatic variable selection processes agreed on selecting the predictors temperature, relative humidity, cloud cover and precipitation as remaining predictors in the multivariable logistic regression model, including all weather factors, with low ambient temperature, low relative humidity, high cloud cover and high precipitation being linked to increased coronavirus detection rates.

Conclusions: Coronavirus infections followed a seasonal pattern, which was more pronounced in immunocompetent patients compared to immunosuppressed patients. Several meteorological factors were associated with the coronavirus detection rate. However, when mutually adjusting for all weather factors, only temperature, relative humidity, precipitation and cloud cover contributed independently to predicting the coronavirus detection rate.

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