Will COVID be the new flu?

This story is part of our series examining how COVID-19 has changed our lives and how it will continue to impact public health in 2022.

key takeaways

  • Public health experts hope Omicron heralds future mutations: more contagious but less severe.
  • COVID-19 may never be completely eradicated.
  • Experts hope that COVID-19 will one day become like the flu, but we haven’t.

Many people are wondering: When will the pandemic end? Faced with a surge in Omicron and the country struggling with a lack of testing supplies and hospital beds, the end appears more distant than before.

But public health officials see a silver lining.

Although the Omicron variant is highly transmissible, its milder symptoms are a good sign, said Jeni Stolow, MPH, a teaching assistant professor of public health and infectious disease outbreak response at Temple University.

“From a virus development standpoint, it’s the best,” Stolo told VigorTip. “A virus wants to reproduce, but never really wants to kill its host.”

COVID-19 may one day become as mild as the common cold, researchers predict

Stolo explained that the virus wants to evolve to be mild enough to survive. She cites the common cold as an example. Because of its highly contagious and relatively mild symptoms, the common cold can reproduce and spread almost permanently. A more efficient host-killing virus dies with it.

If the virus continues to mutate to produce milder infections, the number of deaths and hospitalizations could plummet, aided by a vaccine and continued public health measures such as wearing masks, washing hands and maintaining social distancing. So, in other words, our goal is to reduce the danger posed by COVID-19, not eradicate it.

COVID is here to stay

Stolow is confident about one thing – COVID isn’t going anywhere.

“I don’t think the pandemic is going to ‘end’ because it fundamentally changes the way we interact with disease, health and travel,” Stolo said. “More importantly, people will receive vaccines will become routine, testing will be It will become the norm, and wearing a mask when you are sick will become the norm.”

She said she wanted to reduce the death toll rather than hope to eradicate the virus completely.

Anthony Fauci, MD, the top White House medical adviser, agrees. On January 18, 2022, Fauci said the pandemic may not end with the complete elimination of the virus. He believes that a less severe strain of the virus is more likely to dominate, making it endemic.

What is endemic disease?

One endemic Diseases are always present in specific groups of people or regions. Some examples of endemic diseases include influenza and HIV.

While viruses hope to mutate into forms that allow them to spread and multiply, there is no evidence that COVID-19 will continue its milder trajectory, Stolow said. It’s also possible to mutate into more severe forms, as the Delta variant attests.

Either way, awareness of technologies to combat infectious diseases, such as contact tracing, masking, and testing, will help with any future pandemics.

Will COVID-19 be here forever?

Is COVID more dangerous than the flu?

While many have compared COVID-19 to the flu, Stolow said the consequences of COVID-19 make it a more dangerous virus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 20,000 people died from the flu in 2019-2020. The current death rate from COVID-19 is much higher, but it also has the potential to have long-term effects.

Some people may experience lingering effects after the flu, but the course of the disease is much milder, the study found. The devastating effects of long-term COVID make it a more severe virus for the foreseeable future.

Will the fourth COVID-19 vaccine prevent Omicron?

Also, while there are countless different strains of the flu, they all exhibit the same symptoms. As Omicron demonstrated, the visible signs of COVID-19 infection continue to change.

what does this mean to you

Pandemic fatigue is high right now. Experts say life will never be what it was before the pandemic, especially when it comes to public awareness of infectious diseases. While the pandemic may not be over, the latest mutation hints that it may be evolving into a virus that can be endured with annual boosters and better safety precautions.

How long will this last?

So, how long will the epidemic last? While it’s impossible to know how long it will take before COVID-19 is considered truly epidemic, Stolo said funding for the public health response will continue through 2024.

Since COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus, its mutation trajectory is different from the history of influenza. With a long history and geographic hubs that help monitor changes in the flu virus, the CDC can develop a vaccine that promises to treat major strains.

Is it too late for an Omicron-specific vaccine?

Before COVID-19 was established, public health officials had to use the tools we had: handwashing; masking; social distancing; contact tracing; our original vaccine, designed to treat the original strain of the virus; and boosters and potential variants. body specific lens.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means that you may have updated information as you read this article. For the latest updates on COVID-19, visit our Coronavirus news page.