Coronavirus could become a seasonal thing in the US, warns Anthony Fauci
Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director says the new coronavirus will most likely follow the path of the flu
The coronavirus pandemic is showing no signs of slowing down in the US. Even if the virus fades away during summer, a top White House Health adviser has warned that it might bounce back and sicken people seasonally.
“Would this possibly become a seasonal cyclic thing? I’ve always indicated to you that I think it very well might,” Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director, said a White House press briefing.
The new coronavirus will most likely follow the path of the flu. “Other viral respiratory diseases are seasonal, including influenza and therefore in many viral respiratory diseases, we do see a decrease in disease in spring and summer. And so we can certainly be optimistic that this disease will follow suit," Dr Nancy Messonnier, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said on a February 25 conference call.
Fauci has stressed the importance of having vaccines ready if the virus were to return for the next cycle. Drawing from the situation in Southern Africa, Fauci said, “What we are starting to see now in the southern hemisphere is that we are having cases that are appearing as they go into their winter season. And if they have a substantial outbreak, it will be inevitable that we need to be prepared that we will get a cycle around the second time.”
What does the current evidence say?
Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have looked at how temperatures affect the virus. They found that regions with the temperature between 3 and 17 degrees Celsius have accounted for 90% of the spread until March 22, 2020. Regions with average temperatures above 18 degrees Celsius account for fewer than 6% of global cases so far.
“Wherever the temperatures were colder, the number of cases started increasing quickly. You see this in Europe, even though the health care there is among the world’s best," said Qasim Bukhari, a computational scientist at MIT who is a co-author of the study, told The New York Times.
In the US, southern states like Arizona, Florida, and Texas, are doing better than states like Washington, New York, and Colorado, Bukhari said.
The authors, however, caution that their results do not suggest that the new coronavirus will not spread in warm, humid regions. Countries across the globe must take every measure to slow down the pandemic, they explained.
Besides, other studies have suggested that the new coronavirus could bring about recurrent outbreaks through 2025, according to a preprint study. This is likely to depend on how long our immunity against the virus lasts. If immunity is not permanent, it could enter seasonal circulation, says the team.
Eventually, we would expect to see Covid-19 becoming endemic. And it would be really surprising if it didn't show seasonality then," Jan Albert, a professor of infectious disease control who specializes in viruses at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, told BBC news.