If there are answers about the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, then there are still many questions about when and how it could end. It is not even clear whether the virus will be defeated or we will have to live with it.
Scientists are looking for answers in the experience gained in the fight against pathogens of dangerous diseases.
While waiting for the vaccine, the public must prepare for the second and third waves of coronavirus infection.
“Covid-19 will not go away any time soon,” said Hans Kluge, head of the WHO Regional Office for Europe.
Last fall, a single strain of bat coronavirus in the Wuhan area mutated to the point of human transmission. It proved to be so infectious that it has spread around the world in just four months, killing about 240,000 people.
“This is a completely new and special situation,” said Sarah Cobby, an epidemiologist, and biologist at the University of Chicago.
Kobia and other experts believe that the further development of events depends on the evolution of the pathogen itself, as well as on the human response to it, both biological and social.e
The first scenario allowed by US experts is to live with the coronavirus until it is dealt with by immunity or nature.
Viruses are constantly mutating and the human immune system is not able to defend the new enemy so quickly. That’s why so many people get sick at the same time during a pandemic.
The high population density in big cities and the lack of treatment methods only accelerate the spread of the disease. It takes time, sometimes several years, for immunity to develop, which slows down the transmission of the virus from person to person.
The best-known example of such dynamics in modern history was the Spanish H1N1 flu pandemic which spread worldwide during 1918-1919.
Doctors at that time had a smaller arsenal of resources than they do now. However, the effectiveness of the containment measures also depended on how early they were and how strict they were.
In two years, 500 million people were infected with three waves of Spanish flu in only. Between 50 and 100 million people lost their lives. The pandemic ended when large numbers of people became ill with the flu and gained immunity.
Although the craziest was behind him, the strain that caused the Spanish flu did not disappear after the end of the pandemic. This infectious disease returned every season for another 40 years, the court death toll was much lower.
Another pandemic was needed to get rid of the 1918 strain, and it was the Asian flu H2N2, which broke out in 1957-1958. It took the lives of 70 thousand people a year.
One flu virus actually defeated another, but scientists don’t know exactly how it happened.
“Nature can do it, but we can’t.” commented virologist Florian Krammer of Aiken School in Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York.
The second scenario is the containment of the pathogen through epidemiological measures and vaccination.
In 2003 coronavirus SARS-CoV caused severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). It’s a close relative of the current culprit, SARS-CoV-2. Of the seven known human coronaviruses, four come to us each year and cause up to a third of all seasonal colds.
Thanks to aggressive epidemiological measures, only a few cities was severely affected by the disease, including Hong Kong and Toronto. Restraint became possible because people became ill almost immediately after infection and the symptoms were serious and obvious – high fever, breathing problems.
Only 8098 cases of this disease were detected in the world, the disease claimed the lives of 774 people. No new cases of SARS-CoV have been identified worldwide since 2004.
The 2009 swine flu was very similar to the Spanish flu. Luckily, six months after its outbreak, a vaccine was developed to curb the second wave of the epidemic. As a result, the flu became a widespread seasonal disease. Many had chance to protect themselves either with vaccines or with antibodies from previous infections.
Unlike measles or smallpox vaccines, which provide long-term immunity, influenza vaccines provide immunity for only a few years. Because influenza viruses swiftly mutate, vaccines are renewed every year. The population has to be re-vaccinated regularly, but during a pandemic, a short-acting vaccine also benefits’.
Scientists also allow a third scenario that would be specific to Covid-19.
Firstly, control measures must be maintained, as they not only reduce the number of infections and deaths but also allow time for the development of new antivirals and vaccines.
“The question of the end of the pandemic depends on no less than 50% on politicians and society. The other side of the solution must be provided by scientists,” said Kobia.
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It cannot be ruled out that this pandemic is not the last. It is possible that Covid-19 will show similarities to the “Spanish flu” and will return every season. If the new coronavirus is part of our daily routine long enough, many children will become ill and, if they become ill as a child, it is more likely that a person will suffer from re-infection more easily when they grow up. The combination of vaccination and natural immunity will protect many of us.
Scientists assume that Covid-19 will live with us for a long time to come, but not as a global plague.