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Recurrent Winter Outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 Projected

Longitudinal serological studies urgently needed to determine extent, duration of immunity to SARS-CoV-2

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THURSDAY, April 16, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Recurrent winter outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) are projected to occur after the initial pandemic wave, according to a study published online April 14 in Science.

Stephen M. Kissler, Ph.D., from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues used estimates of seasonality, immunity, and cross-immunity for betacoronaviruses OC43 and HKU1 to inform a model of SARS-CoV-2 transmission.

The researchers project that following the initial, most severe pandemic wave, recurrent wintertime outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 will probably occur. A key metric for the success of social distancing is whether critical care capacities are exceeded, absent other interventions. Prolonged or intermittent social distancing may be necessary into 2022 to avoid this. The success of intermittent distancing would be improved and acquisition of herd immunity hastened by additional interventions, including expanded critical care capacity and an effective therapeutic. To determine the extent and duration of immunity to SARS-CoV-2, longitudinal serological studies are urgently needed. SARS-CoV-2 surveillance should be maintained even in the event of apparent elimination, as a resurgence in contagion could be possible into 2024.

"The total incidence of COVID-19 illness over the next five years will depend critically upon whether or not it enters into regular circulation after the initial pandemic wave, which in turn depends primarily upon the duration of immunity that SARS-CoV-2 infection imparts," the authors write.

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