Expert sees Covid-19 easing up in summer, returning in the fall

By Jairo Mejia

New York, Mar 13 (efe-epa).- Covid-19 will lose steam in the Northern Hemisphere summer before returning with renewed strength in the fall, according to an epidemic expert, who said it likely will become the fifth endemic coronavirus.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a scholar at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Health Security, said in an interview with Efe that a change in policy is needed in the United States and that President Donald Trump’s decision to temporarily suspend all incoming flights from continental Europe, one of the hardest-hit areas of the world, will not help contain the spread of the disease.

“There’s already human-to-human transmission at the local level. We have to change the strategy to interrupt the transmissions … The travel ban does not help at this point,” the expert said, calling that measure a nationalistic response to what the president has termed a “foreign virus.”

The spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in the US, where there have been more than 1,800 confirmed cases, is inevitable and the true impact of the disease in the country is unknown because of the slow response by federal authorities, who still have not provided enough coronavirus detection kits.

“Right now, the best we can do is strengthen diagnostics, focus on isolating (the infection focal points) and strengthen the hospitals” to prevent them from collapsing due to the volume of coronavirus patients nationwide, said Adalja, who has helped craft some of the US government’s epidemic protocols.

In May 2018, Trump decided to eliminate a White House National Security Council office that focused on combating pandemics.

Adalja, one of the country’s chief global health security experts, warned in a report that week that the US should prepare for a respiratory virus pandemic, known within public-health circles as “Disease X.”

Disease X was a theoretical construction used by the World Health Organization to represent the knowledge that a serious international epidemic – known as a global catastrophic biological risk (GCBR) – could be triggered by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease.

Nearly two years ago, Adalja and his team released a report describing a hypothetical situation that is now a reality today with the appearance of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus but which at the time was ignored by Trump’s White House.

“The most probable naturally occurring GCBR-level threat that humans face is from a respiratory-borne RNA virus, and so this class of microbes should be a preparedness priority,” the study said.

Due to the lack of a response by the federal government, which has relegated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to a secondary plane, US states have started to take the initiative.

Colorado has set up a drive-thru testing facility, while New York state has deployed the National Guard to contain a cluster of cases in New Rochelle and begun manufacturing its own hand sanitizer to combat supply shortages.

Stanford University and the Cleveland Clinic have developed their own Covid-19 tests that provide results more quickly – in hours not days – than those currently distributed by the US government.

“The system is not really geared to what we need right now,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Thursday during a congressional hearing when asked whether the government is prepared to diagnose cases of the new coronavirus.

“That is a failing. It is a failing. Let’s admit it.”

Adalja said indications are that Covid-19, a disease that thus far has killed more than 5,000 people worldwide, will become the fifth coronavirus endemic for human beings.

“The difference is that this one is the most severe” because of its high transmission rate, even though it is less deadly than other coronaviruses like MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus).

“It will remit in summer and come back this fall. We have to be prepared” for a new wave of cases, the expert said, noting that at this time the best way of stopping Covid-19 is to develop a vaccine. EFE-EPA


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