Coronavirus could be here ‘permanently,’ says top adviser to U.K. government.

By Kashmira Gander
April 24, 2020

he novel coronavirus may be at the stage where it circulates in human populations “permanently,” according to a scientist advising the U.K. government on its COVID-19 response.

Dr. Jeremy Farrar, a member of the U.K. government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, told reporters at a media briefing on Wednesday, “I believe this is now an endemic human infection which will continue to circulate in human populations for many, many years to come if not permanently.”

In his opening remarks at the press conference held by the U.K.-based research charity the Wellcome Trust, of which he is the director, the clinician and infectious disease researcher said “it is likely that this is here with the human race for the future.”

Amanda M. Simanek, associate professor of epidemiology at the Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, explained that “endemic” simply means an infection is regularly present at a certain level in a particular area.

And diseases can be endemic in different ways, said Dr. Andrew Brouwer, assistant research scientist in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan, “from widespread seasonal outbreaks, to intermittent spreading through people whose immunity has waned, to a common but mostly childhood disease, among others.” Chicken pox, for instance, is an example of an endemic disease.

Simanek said she agrees with Farrar the virus will “become essentially an endemic infection” in areas with outbreaks until a sufficient proportion of the population have been infected and what is known as herd immunity is achieved. Likely upward of 60 to 70 percent of a population would need to catch the virus for this to happen, she said.

“In areas that have already experienced a first wave of infection and have successfully suppressed transmission through social distancing and other strategies, efforts will transition to ongoing containment of new outbreaks, essentially maintaining an endemic level of infection that is considered manageable until a vaccine is available,” said Simanek…

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