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COVID-19 to become seasonal? Herd immunity will decide frequency of outbreak, claims study

Dr Hassan Zaraket of the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, added, 'COVID-19 is here to stay and it will continue to cause outbreaks year-round until herd immunity is achieved'

twitter-logoBusinessToday.In | September 15, 2020 | Updated 16:09 IST
COVID-19 to become seasonal? Herd immunity will decide frequency of outbreak, claims study
The highest global COVID-19 infection rate per capita was recorded in the Gulf states, regardless of the hot summer season

Scientists have predicted that coronavirus will become a seasonal virus in countries with temperate climates only when herd humanity is attained. Until then, public health measures must be followed to curb the spread of the virus, a review published in Frontiers highlighted.

Dr Hassan Zaraket of the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, added, "COVID-19 is here to stay and it will continue to cause outbreaks year-round until herd immunity is achieved".  Meanwhile, people will have to learn to live with it and continue wearing masks, maintain social distancing, hand hygiene, and avoiding social gatherings, Zaraket added.

Dr. Hadi Yassine, of Qatar University in Doha reviewed other viruses like influenza and host factors that control their seasonality. He affirmed that there could be multiple waves of COVID-19 before herd immunity is achieved.

Yassine said, "We know that many respiratory viruses follow seasonal patterns, especially in temperate regions. For instance, influenza that causes the common cold is known to peak in winter in temperate regions but circulate year-round in tropical regions".

He explained that virus survival in the air and on surfaces, and people's susceptibility to infections differ across the seasons due to changes in temperature and humidity. Henceforth, such factors influence the transmission of respiratory viruses at different times of the year.

According to researchers, COVID-19 has a higher rate of transmission due to circulation in a largely immunologically population.

However, once herd immunity is attained through natural infections and vaccinations, the rate of transmission might drop substantially, making the virus more susceptible to seasonal factors. The scientists cited that seasonality has been reported for other coronaviruses, including those that emerged more recently such as NL63 and HKU1, which follow the same circulation pattern as influenza.

The highest global COVID-19 infection rate per capita was recorded in the Gulf states, regardless of the hot summer season.

Dr. Yassine said, "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".

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