Scientists Predict COVID-19 to Become Seasonal Virus in Near Future

The new study suggests that COVID-19 will follow the track of other respiratory viruses and become seasonal in countries with temperate climates, but only when herd immunity is attained through natural infection or vaccinations.

Researchers predict that the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) will likely become a seasonal virus, diminishing in the summer and emerging in the winter months, according to a recent study published in Frontiers in Public Health.

The new study suggests that COVID-19 will follow the track of other respiratory viruses and become seasonal in countries with temperate climates, but only when herd immunity is attained through natural infection or vaccinations.

“COVID-19 is here to stay and it will continue to cause outbreaks year-round until herd immunity is achieved,” said study author Hassan Zaraket, MD, in a press release. “Therefore, the public will need to learn to live with it and continue practicing the best prevention measures, including wearing of masks, physical distancing, hand hygiene and avoidance of gatherings.”

The researchers explained how virus survival in the air and on surfaces, people’s susceptibility to infections and human behaviors, such as indoor crowding, differ across the seasons due to the changes in temperature and humidity. Therefore, the influence of transmission for respiratory viruses differs depending on the time of the year.

Compared with other respiratory viruses, such as the flu, COVID-19 has a higher rate of transmission (R0) partly due to circulation in a largely immunologically naïve population, according to the study authors.

Unlike the flu and other respiratory viruses, these factors based on seasonality of viruses cannot yet stop the spread of COVID-19 in the summer months. However, once herd immunity is achieved through natural infections and vaccinations, the R0 should drop substantially, making the virus more susceptible to seasonal factors, according to the study.

“This remains a novel virus and despite the fast-growing body of science about it there are still things that are unknown” Zaraket said in a press release. “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.”

REFERENCE

Scientists predict that COVID-19 will become a seasonal virus but not yet. Frontiers Science News. https://blog.frontiersin.org/2020/09/15/scientists-predict-that-covid-19-will-become-a-seasonal-virus-but-not-yet/. Published September 15, 2020. Accessed September 17, 2020.