3.4 Seasonality of Infectious Diseases

Seasonality of infectious diseases is a commonly observed and recorded phenomenon; however, its underlying mechanisms are not exactly well known.

Epidemiologists have pointed out several factors that could be playing a role when it comes to specific diseases occurring seasonally. One of these factors is human activity, which is affected by the changing seasons.

For example, in cold weather, influenza takes hold in many regions. It is hypothesized that the airborne pathogen is more likely to spread due to people gathering indoors, poor ventilation, and overcrowding.

Another huge factor in this phenomenon is pathogen infectivity. Outside of reproducing in their hosts and spreading optimally within a population, many pathogens have a limited range of environmental factors that they can survive. Temperature, light, and dehydration play a huge role in determining whether a pathogen can survive and optimally infect its host species.

Human immunity is also impacted by seasonal changes. Namely, vitamin D changes in the body can affect individuals ability to fight off various infectious diseases. Several components affect a persons immune responses to pathogen threats. For example, dryness of the mucus membranes can give rise to respiratory diseases in regions with hot and dry weather.

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