Monday, August 28, 2023

Part I of II on COVID-19: Seasonality?

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine, Science & Society, Climate Change, Global Change

Ed Hessler

Most of us live as though the COVID-19 pandemic is over.  But, Helen Branswell, a STAT senior staff writer whose beat is infectious diseases, clamps down on that idea. (If there is anything we should know is that COVID-19 has many tricks up its long sleeves.)
"But for many scientists who have been tracking the largest global infectious disease event in the era of molecular biology, there is still a step that the virus that caused it, SARS-CoV-2, hasn’t yet taken. It has not fallen into a predictable seasonal pattern of the type most respiratory pathogens follow."

Branswell continues with interesting comments by communicable disease experts and reasons this is more than an interest of academic scientists. It has to do with logistics such as "health care labor force" and timely rollout of booster shots. In other words, seasonality and predictability make these possible. 

Hypotheses on reasons some viruses "hew to a seasonal pattern" are discussed and Branswell includes a comment  by Nick Grassly, an infectious diseases modeler at the school of public health at Imperial College London 'of a much stronger evidence base on the impact of climate variables (esp. temperature and humidity on pathogen survival and how this translates to an impact on transmission in the population.'"

On the other hand, flu pandemics have been anything but seasonal and Branswell provides dates for outbreaks  starting in 1918. There is a lot going on as viral outbreaks interact -- Covid disrupted flu and RSV. This is called override. and what "remains to be seen" as Branswell observes is "when it will be apparent that SARS-2  has lost its override capabilities, when we'll feel confident aboutt we know when to expect---plus or minus a month or two---Covid's annual onslaught."

I hope you read Branswell's typically splendid reporting. This question is important one that seems to me especially complex with many interacting variables. You will end up better informed.

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