Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Coronavirus could become a seasonal infection like the flu that returns every year and never goes away, scientists warn

The coronavirus could become an infection that never goes away and causes seasonal outbreaks of illness, according to scientists.

Countries around the world are in the grip of the first ever epidemics of the virus, which has infected around 90,000 people and killed more than 3,000.

While the number of cases in South Korea, Italy and Iran continue to soar, the spread of the infection is beginning to come under control in China.

But scientists now say the coronavirus may never go away completely and that it could become a perennial illness like colds, chest infections and flu.


These are viral illnesses that go round every winter, cannot be cured and that people often don't development immunity to because they change so often.

The coronavirus, which has so far killed just over three per cent of everyone who has caught it, could follow in the same footsteps and become a normalised illness.

If you look at other members of the coronavirus family, that are respiratory viruses and we've known about them for the last 50 years or more, they're seasonal,' Professor John Oxford, from Queen Mary University in London, told The Telegraph.

'They're just like the common cold, there's probably a few thousand people infected with them at the moment in England.

'Whether Covid-19 will fit into that pattern or not, we will just have to wait and see but my guess is it will.'

The coronavirus is currently causing a self-sustaining outbreak, which means it is constantly being passed on without anyone coming into contact with the original source.

It is thought to have broken out at an animal market in Wuhan, China, and since then has continued to spread among people.

As long as people continue to spread it to new areas faster than health authorities can isolate the infected communities, the virus will keep spreading.

When an illness becomes a permanent feature of a country or region it is described as endemic, meaning it is native there.

'This is going to be with us for some time,' said Dr Amesh Adalja, a disease expert at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

He told Business Insider: 'It's endemic in human populations and not going to go away without a vaccine.'

Scientists around the world are working to try and develop vaccines for the virus, with some already in animal trials, but the process is a lengthy and uncertain one.

Even if they are successful, the virus could mutate and become completely different to what the vaccine is able to protect against.

This is the case for flu, which has so many strains that the vaccine must change every year to try and match the strains most likely to infect people at that time. It is never perfect or able to offer full protection.

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