COVID-19 will eventually become a seasonal disease, scientists predict

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Researchers pointed out that COVID-19 will eventually become a seasonal disease. (Representational Image, Photo by: Prasesh Shiwakoti Lomash/ Unsplash)
Researchers pointed out that COVID-19 will eventually become a seasonal disease. (Representational Image, Photo by: Prasesh Shiwakoti Lomash/ Unsplash)

A new research published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health predicted that COVID-19 will likely to subside as any other seasonal disease once the herd immunity is attained. 

“This remains a novel virus and despite the fast-growing body of science about it there are still things that are unknown. Whether our predictions hold true or not remains to be seen in the future. But we think it’s highly likely, given what we know so far, COVID-19 will eventually become seasonal, like other coronaviruses,” said senior author of the study Dr. Hassan Zarakat, of the American University of Beirut in Lebanon.

However, Dr. Zarakat said that until herd immunity is attained the outbreaks of COVID19 will continue to take place across seasons. He emphasised the need of practicing the best prevention measures such as wearing masks, physical distancing, hand hygiene and avoidance of gatherings, in the intervening time. 

Co-author of the study Hadi Yassine, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at Qatar University, in Doha, also stressed the importance of precaution in curbing the spread of virus: “The highest global COVID-19 infection rate per capita was recorded in the Gulf states, regardless of the hot summer season. Although this is majorly attributed to the rapid virus spread in closed communities, it affirms the need for rigorous control measures to limit virus spread until herd immunity is achieved.”

It is well established that respiratory viruses, influenza and several types of coronaviruses become potent in winter especially in temperate regions. The authors compared the seasonal virus as well as the factors which influenced these viruses getting potent in winter with the latest knowledge of circulation of SARS-COV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19.

The Medical News Today has summed up important points of the finding: First, the researchers point out, the climate can affect the stability of the virus. Previous research has suggested that enveloped viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, become more stable in cold weather. This means that they are able to survive for longer periods between hosts. Cold weather may also allow the virus to travel through the air more easily, while higher levels of ultraviolet radiation in the summer may be more likely to kill the virus. Second, cold weather may affect our physiology, making it easier for the virus to infect us. People also generally get less vitamin D in the winter, when sunlight is less intense, which has been linked to a weakened immune response to respiratory infections. In addition, people are more likely to stay indoors during the winter months, increasing the risk of viral transmission at home, work, and school, for example.

Yet, it must be reminded that in case of COVID19, the seasonality factor is expected to influence the circulation only after herd immunity is attained either naturally, or through vaccine.

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