At the end of last year, the world learned of a new virus that was unknown to science. However, we all underestimated him a little. Although we write a lot about SARS-CoV-2 in the editorial office of Hi-News.ru, I recently felt completely uncomfortable. I think it's because of the realization that future shocks and changes are inevitable – after all, the world won't be the same. Of course, the pandemic will end sooner or later, but no one knows how events will develop in the future. We can only make assumptions based on known information. And as we wash our hands diligently and sew protective masks in self-isolation, scientists are trying to predict how this terrible global crisis will end. According to the researchers, there are several possible scenarios to end the pandemic of the new corona virus. Details of each of them are described in this article.
At the time of this writing, the number of people infected with the new CoVID-19 coronavirus has exceeded one million people worldwide, and this number continues to grow. The disease claims thousands of lives each day, and epidemiologists say the highest incidence is yet to come. However, in this difficult time, it is very important to remain calm and follow all recommendations of the World Health Organization – consider social distance, wash your hands thoroughly and stay at home. Don't forget that the way we spend the coming months affects the state of immunity, which is the only weapon against the new corona virus. At least one effective vaccine has not yet been invented. At the same time, it is very difficult to live in complete darkness, and it is simply dangerous to listen to all the possible obscurantists who give the exact end date of the pandemic. Therefore, we propose to learn realistic options for the development of events that are predicted by scientists. The most important thing is that all of the above scenarios can turn out to be wrong, since we all – including scientists – tend to make mistakes and nobody knows the future.
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1 Why was the coronavirus outbreak not contained?
2 1. Natural decrease in incidence
3 2. Transition from pandemic to endemic
4 3. Inhibition of the spread of the virus by reaction
5 4. Development of a vaccine against coronavirus
6 Unknown end
Why was the coronavirus outbreak not controlled?
The first and most popular step to end an epidemic is to contain it. If the number of cases is limited by the location of the outbreak and people who have left the epicenter do not infect people in other countries and cities, the spread of the infection is minimal. Before the outbreak of CoVID-19 was officially recognized as a pandemic, it was therefore possible to locate it geographically. However, this possibility disappeared together with the first reports of the spread of the coronavirus in Europe and North America in February. According to scientists at Johns Hopkins University, it became clear that it was impossible to contain the virus when it was found that the virus spreads effectively between people.
1. Natural decrease in incidence
No matter how terrible the pandemic may seem today, there is always a chance that the number of new cases will naturally decrease. Researchers attribute this to a number of factors, as other coronaviruses and influenza viruses often recede naturally in warmer weather. According to a current hypothesis, SARS-CoV-2 does not survive well under humid conditions, although this information has not yet been confirmed. The incidence of new corona virus can also decrease as the virus infects people who are most susceptible to it. According to New York University epidemiologist Joshua Epstein, it usually happens that a sufficient number of susceptible people are infected with the virus, but then the chain of infection naturally fades. However, this happens faster in small populations, and in the event of a pandemic, the process can take several months.
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2. Transition from pandemic to endemic
Endemic – the constant presence of a disease (usually infectious) in a specific area
According to the second scenario, the SARS-CoV-2 virus becomes endemic in humans. This means that it becomes a well-known "seasonal illness" like SARS and flu. After a pandemic, the virus can remain in the human population and turn into seasonal respiratory disease. The epidemiologist Stephen Morse from Columbia University shares this opinion.
His colleague Michael Osterholm from the University of Minnesota also believes that CoVID-19 may become another seasonal pathogen that causes pneumonia. In the end, the only pathogen with which the new corona virus can be compared is seasonal flu. And, as we know, he returns every year.
3. Inhibiting the spread of the virus through reaction
To put an end to the coronavirus pandemic, you can slow the spread of it through therapeutic treatment of infected people in hospitals and at home. Experts call this scenario "smoothing the curve" – roughly speaking, we all do not leave our home today to save time and relieve the health system. Such a response will bring the pandemic closer to the endemic. However, if the spread cannot be slowed down, it will not only lead to an increase in deaths, but also an increase in new morbidity cases.
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4. Development of a vaccine against coronavirus
The preparation of a vaccine is a very complex and time-consuming process that takes a long time – from 12 to 18 months or longer. But even if you get the vaccine in the near future, it's important to understand that vaccination helps prevent the disease before someone gets infected. Your main goal is to prevent future outbreaks of the disease. According to Harvard University epidemiologist Mark Lipsic, between 40% and 70% of people worldwide can become infected with SARS-CoV-2 over the course of a year. And when most people around the world are exposed to the virus, introducing a vaccine may not be very useful. Read more about who's working on the vaccine and read our material when it appears.
Scenarios are similar to potential storylines. What actually happens depends on a variety of factors, making it incredibly difficult to predict the exact course of events. There are more questions than answers to CoVID-19. So it takes a while before we learn how effective social distance is. The same applies to the development of a vaccine and effective antiviral drugs. Now we can only see that the future cannot be predicted, but we can try to control the number of new cases without fear controlling us. Indeed, this is a difficult time for all of us, but the best we can do is to limit the number of contacts and follow the WHO recommendations.