Tags: Coronavirus | Coronavirus Special | Health Topics | Vaccines | Cold/Flu | covid-19 | common cold

COVID-19 Will Be With Us Forever

doctor anthony fauci lifts his sleeve and takes the moderna vaccine
Dr. Anthony Fauci (Patrick Semansky/AP)

By    |   Tuesday, 26 January 2021 03:26 PM

COVID-19 will likely become one of the regular human coronaviruses that live with us all the time, like those that cause the human cold.

Eventually it will morph from a pandemic to an endemic disease that will cause fewer severe cases of illness but will plague humanity forever. Hans Heesterbeek, a professor of theoretical epidemiology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, says an endemic disease, like measles or malaria, is always present in a population.

Heesterbeek, writing for The Conversation, said, even when vaccines become available, "there is sufficient fuel for the fire to keep burning for some time." When enough people become immune to COVID-19, either by vaccination or infection, the numbers will slow down, he said, but will not go away completely.

According to The Washington Post, while we can count on the persistence of the virus in the future, the situation will not be as dire as it is today. Experts point out, we have 4 endemic coronaviruses globally, including the ones that cause the common cold, and predict SARS-CoV-2 will become the fifth.

"The virus is here to stay," said Sara Cobey Ph.D., associate professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago.

According to the National Geographic, the exact trajectory of the virus' future depends on the length of our immunity to the virus, how quickly the virus evolves, and how quickly and widely older people become immune during the actual pandemic itself.

There could be many years of transition from a looming threat to a mild annoyance as the virus continues to mutate causing localized outbreaks. The reason the current 4 endemic viruses are not as much of a threat to humans now as they were initially is children are exposed to these pathogens early, when their immune systems are developing, so that the symptoms are mild.

"The virus is its own enemy," said Marc Veldhoen, an immunologist at Portugal's University of Lisbon. "Every time it infects you, it tops your immunity."

Even partial immunity can keep people from getting seriously ill, according to previous studies on viruses. Recent research published in Science found the immune response for COVID-19 patients might last for 5 to 8 months after infection for 95% of patients studied.

While experts say previous coronaviruses have transitioned from lions to lambs, there is no guarantee the same pattern will determine the future fate of COVID-19. The mutations we have noted lately make the virus more effectively infect human hosts, and there are a lot more of these hosts in the world today than there were when previous coronavirus epidemics exploded.

The vaccines that have been developed might not be effective against the variant viruses, and current information shows some mutations, notably the one found in South Africa, are adept at eluding antibodies.

If the vaccines need to be updated, this can be done in as little as six weeks and in the future, might need to be tailor made to specific regions in the world, said Sir Roy Anderson, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at Imperial College London.

"People have got to realize, this is not going to go away," he says, according to National Geographic. "We're going to be able to manage it because of modern medicine and vaccines, but it's not something that will just vanish out of the window."

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COVID-19 will likely become one of the regular human coronaviruses that live with us all the time, like those that cause the human cold.
covid-19, common cold, pandemic, endemic, disease, mutations, variants
Tuesday, 26 January 2021 03:26 PM
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