Following a similar pattern of colds, researchers suggest COVID-19 may become another seasonal virus.
These findings were published in Frontiers in Public Health.
"COVID-19 is here to stay and it will continue to cause outbreaks year-round until herd immunity is achieved,” coauthor Hassan Zaraket, PhD, American University of Beirut in Lebanon, said. “Therefore, the public will need to learn to live with it and continue practicing the best prevention measures, including wearing of masks, physical distancing, hand hygiene, and avoidance of gatherings."
Respiratory viruses follow seasonal patterns, especially in temperate regions. For example, influenza and several types of coronaviruses that cause common colds are known to peak in winter in temperate regions but circulate year-round in tropical regions.
"The highest global COVID-19 infection rate per capita was recorded in the Gulf states, regardless of the hot summer season," coauthor Hadi Yassine, PhD, Qatar University in Doha, said. "Although this is majorly attributed to the rapid virus spread in closed communities, it affirms the need for rigorous control measures to limit virus spread, until herd immunity is achieved."
Zaraket and Yassine reviewed seasonal viruses, examining the viral and host factors that control their seasonality as well as the latest knowledge on the stability and transmission of SARS-CoV-2.
The researchers explain that virus survival in the air and on surfaces, people's susceptibility to infections and human behaviors, such as indoor crowding, differ across the seasons due to changes in temperature and humidity. These factors influence transmission of respiratory viruses at different times of the year.
In comparison to influenza, COVID-19 has a higher rate of transmission, at least partly due to circulation in a largely immunologically naïve population. So, unlike the flu and other respiratory viruses, the factors governing seasonality of viruses cannot yet halt the spread of COVID-19 in the summer months.
“Whether our predictions hold true or not remains to be seen in the future. But we think it's highly likely, given what we know so far, COVID-19 will eventually become seasonal, like other coronaviruses," Zaraket concluded.
To stay informed on the latest in infectious disease news and developments, please sign up for our weekly newsletter.