TUESDAY, Sept. 15, 2020 (HealthDay News) — COVID-19 is unlike other respiratory viruses known to humans, but in time it could evolve into a seasonal scourge like the flu.
That’s according to a new report in which researchers lay out the case for a possible seasonal COVID.
The scenario depends on many unknowns, and assumes the new coronavirus will bend to weather factors. And that would not happen until enough people have been exposed to the virus — or vaccinated — to provide a level of herd immunity, the researchers said in their report in the journal Frontiers in Public Health.
But they believe that endemic respiratory viruses — including the flu and common coronaviruses that cause cold symptoms — give hints as to what could happen with COVID.
All of those viruses have a seasonal variation, being susceptible to changes in weather patterns like temperature and humidity.
SARS-CoV-2 has yet to show any signs of seasonality. Cases in the United States soared during the hot summer months, in contrast to typical respiratory viruses that dissipate at that time.
But as more people are exposed to SARS-CoV-2, that pattern could change, according to report author Dr. Hassan Zaraket, of American University of Beirut in Lebanon.
“We think it’s highly likely, given what we know so far, COVID-19 will eventually become seasonal, like other coronaviruses,” he said in a journal news release.
However, infectious disease experts cautioned that if one thing is certain about COVID, it’s that the disease is full of surprises.
The notion of a seasonal COVID is a “reasonable conjecture,” said Dr. Aaron Glatt, a spokesperson for the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
“But there is currently no evidence for or against it,” said Glatt, who also chairs the department of medicine at Mount Sinai South Nassau in Oceanside, N.Y.
It’s true that most respiratory viruses have well-established seasonal patterns. In temperate climates, Zaraket writes, they peak in winter and early spring, when the air is colder and less humid. In the tropics, meanwhile, many respiratory viruses circulate year-round, then spike during certain months.