A review published in Frontiers in Public Health claims that COVID-19 is likely to become seasonal flu, but not until herd immunity is achieved. Experts believe that COVID-19 will continue to circulate across the season while highlighting the need for public health measures to aid the control of the virus. The review article stated, “Most viral respiratory infections tend to follow seasonal patterns with high incidence during winter in temperate regions and during the rainy season in tropical regions.”
‘COVID-19 likely to become seasonal flu’
Dr Hassam Zaraket, of the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, said, “COVID-19 is here to stay and it will continue to cause outbreaks year-round until herd immunity is achieved. Therefore, the public will need to learn to live with it and continue practising the best prevention measures, including wearing of masks, physical distancing, hand hygiene and avoidance of gatherings.”
An author of the study, Dr Hadi Yassine from Qatar University in Doha said that multiple waves of COVID-19 will be witnessed before herd immunity is attained. The collaborating author added, “We know that many respiratory viruses follow seasonal flu patterns, especially in places with a temperate climate. For example, influenza and several types of coronaviruses that cause the common cold are known to peak in winter in temperate regions but circulate year-round in tropical regions.”
According to the authors of the study, the scientists examining the COVID-19 virus have looked at both viral and host factors that influence the seasonality, stability, and transmission. The examination of coronavirus revealed that survival of the virus in the air and on the different surfaces, people’s susceptibility to infections, and human behaviours like indoor crowding may differ in the seasons because of the change in temperature and humidity.
“The highest global COVID-19 infection rate per capita was recorded in the Gulf states, regardless of the hot summer season. 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,” Dr Yassine said.
Herd immunity will lower the transmission rate
While comparing coronavirus to other viruses like the flu, scientists said that COVID-19 has a higher rate of transmission in a large immunologically naive population. This means that the factors which govern the seasonality of viruses cannot decrease the spread of COVID-19 in summer months, unlike other respiratory viruses. However, the rate of transmission will drop significantly once herd immunity is achieved through natural injections and vaccinations.