WebMD News Brief

Experts Say COVID Isn’t Seasonal and Will “Rage”

Coronavirus

August 6, 2020 -- The COVID-19 pandemic will continue to rage on like a forest fire rather than ebb and flow like the seasonal flu, according to Business Insider.

In the spring, epidemiologists and virologists who study infectious diseases predicted the coronavirus might fade in the summer and return with a “second wave” in the fall, but they haven’t seen it slow down.

“There’s no evidence there’s going to be a decrease in cases, a trough,” Michael Osterholm, PhD, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, told the news outlet. Osterholm and colleagues at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy wrote a popular report in April that suggested what a second wave might look like.

“It’s just going to keep burning hot, kind of like a forest fire looking for human wood to burn,” he added. “Now we see there are no waves.”

In the April report, the second-wave theory was based on what happened during the 1918 flu and 2009 H1N1 flu pandemics. Two other scenarios said that the first wave of the coronavirus could be followed by a cycle of smaller waves or that there could be a “slow burn” of ongoing cases. So far, none of the scenarios have played out as previously predicted.

Instead, this pandemic is “one long-term fire” and more like a “fast burn” with peaks and valleys in different cities at different times, Osterholm said.

“In April, we were still looking at whether this was a pandemic where we’d see true waves — where you see big increase in cases and then a trough and then a second, bigger wave for reasons completely beyond human behavior — which has historically happened with other influenza pandemics,” he said.

In reality, the pandemic will likely be “one big wave,” according to Reuters.

“We are in the first wave. It’s going to be one big wave. It’s going to go up and down a bit,” Margaret Harris, a World Health Organization spokeswoman, said during a press briefing.

“The best thing is to flatten it and turn it into just something lapping at your feet,” she added.

Instead of counting on seasonal changes, she said, people should continue to follow social distancing practices, wear face masks and avoid crowds to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“People are still thinking about seasons,” she said. “What we all need to get our heads around is this is a new virus.”

WebMD Health News Brief Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

Sources

Business Insider, “Experts no longer expect seasonal coronavirus waves: The pandemic is like ‘a forest fire looking for human wood to burn’.”

Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, “COVID-19: The CIDRAP Viewpoint.”

Reuters, “WHO says COVID-19 pandemic is ‘one big wave,’ not seasonal.”

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