Could the novel coronavirus one day be as commonplace as the seasonal flu?
Despite rigorous containment efforts, medical experts working to understand the virus, now known as COVID-19, have acknowledged such a possibility — including Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who said this week the virus “is probably with us beyond this season, beyond this year.”
When speaking to Fox News, Dr. William Schaffner, the medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), also recognized the possibility, but quickly noted it’s likely too soon to know for sure.
“COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, and if it behaves like other respiratory viruses, including influenza [the flu], we might anticipate that it will abate as the weather gets warmer,” he said. But, he added, “It may become part of our usual cold and flu season.”
That said, “We can’t be sure,” he said.
“It’s a new virus, and it may not have read the textbooks. That’s why the current, ongoing research to develop vaccines and antiviral drugs that are effective against coronaviruses is so important,” he continued.
The virus is new in humans — meaning medical experts at this time “cannot predict the long-term impact on the global community,” Schaffner said. “We are now in the containment phase and are working to restrict the virus’ spread in the U.S. and internationally.”
“Clinicians are rapidly diagnosing cases, putting patients in isolation and providing medical care. Public health officials are tracking contacts and testing them for the virus. So far, we have had very few cases in the U.S., and they have been close contacts of confirmed cases. We are seeing a similar response around the world,” he added.
To date, the U.S. has confirmed 15 cases of the novel virus, which has sickened more than 64,000 people worldwide and claimed some 1,383 lives.
Speaking to CNN, Redfield said he thinks COVID-19 could eventually “find a foothold and we will get community-based transmission.”