Many expect that “Covid-19” may accompany us for a long time, and even if it does, the good news is that it may end up with just a mild illness, and it may rarely lead to death.
The theory is rooted in the patterns of epidemiology previously followed by four other coronaviruses. And all of them have been in circulation for a very long time. In fact, they are endemic, which means that most people develop and develop immunity during childhood that protects against serious diseases (although the infection does not recur) as adults.
This path led a team of researchers to design a model of what might eventually happen in the future if most people were similarly exposed to the new coronavirus during childhood.
“In the vast majority of cases, endemic human coronaviruses cause nothing but a cold, meaning an infection in the upper respiratory tract,” said study author Jenny Lavigne, a postdoctoral researcher in the department of biology at Emory University in Atlanta.
She added that it is believed that about 15% of the common cold in adults can be attributed to the hepatitis C virus.
Lavigne said, “It sometimes leads to lower respiratory infections, especially in young children and the elderly.” And only in rare cases, among particularly vulnerable groups, does it lead to more serious diseases.
“It seems likely that Covid-19 will end up this way,” she said. And that exactly when this will happen is only speculation, with projections generally ranging from 1 to 10 years. There is always a possibility that it will not happen at all. “
Lavigne cited a number of factors that could influence future developments. One of these factors is how quickly the virus will spread in the near future. The other factor is how quickly people will get vaccinated in the coming months. It also remains to be seen how many infections and / or vaccinations will ultimately be required to stimulate strong and lasting immunity.
Another problem is to what extent natural infection and / or vaccines can completely prevent transmission of the virus, versus how long either of them is able to prevent the dangerous disease that could develop after infection.
The idea that the new coronavirus will indeed become epidemic and mild is based on the basic assumption that the disease continues to appear relatively mild, or even without symptoms, among most infected children and adolescents.
Lavigne cautioned, however: “If the infection in children becomes more severe than it is now, that would be a bad sign. We have no reason to doubt that this will happen, but the long-term scenario will be much bleaker if it does.”
The virus can mutate in a way that undermines the development of widespread immunity. Lavigne said: “As long as the viral evolution occurs slowly enough that people are exposed to new variants while still having some immunity that prevents the disease from being vaccinated and / or exposed to the previous variants, we expect the disease to remain mild.”
But she indicated that one thing is clear: “We can influence the settlement pathway.” One way is to keep transmission rates as low as possible so that vaccination can spread widely, “to reduce deaths and prevent the massive disruption of hospital systems.”
Lavigne explained that another method is vaccination, “especially if you are at higher risk of developing a serious disease. While it is possible that everyone will be infected with this virus at some point even after vaccination, it is very likely that the vaccine will reduce symptoms.”
This last point was echoed by Dr. Sandro Sainty, professor of internal medicine and infectious diseases in Michigan medicine at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor.
“This is a typical study, and it makes sense. But the timeline runs from five to ten years. Over time, a change in the appearance of a disease can happen without any of the vaccine dispensations that we are publishing now. But, meanwhile, millions could die,” he said. Of people. ”
“So people should not think that they do not need to get vaccinated. Vaccines are very important at the moment. It is little hope that we can say that this will not last forever, and this is not a strategy that can be adopted. Vaccines are the actual strategy,” Sinti stressed.