Epidemiologists — the people who study the patterns and causes of diseases — have suggested that the first of the novel coronavirus wave will continue to swell, with daily cases and death counts rising and falling in particular areas, until the population eventually achieves herd immunity ― which seems unlikely without a widely available vaccine.
The experts warn against assuming that Covid-19 will behave like the infectious diseases the world has seen before. This is a brand-new virus and it’s not clear this pandemic will even see a second wave.
“We’re in totally uncharted waters here,” said Anne Rimoin, a professor of epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health., according to Huffington Post.
“We see first and second waves with those because seasonally, they go away,” said Christine Johnson, a University of California, Davis professor of epidemiology and researcher on the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Emerging Pandemic Threats PREDICT project.
The flu virus also mutates easily. Each year, new variations of the flu emerge, and second and third waves in a given flu season are often caused by strains different from the one behind the first wave.
But Covid-19 is different. Jennifer Horney, a disaster epidemiologist and founding director of the University of Delaware’s epidemiology program, said that predicting a new virus’s behavior based on other illnesses risks a “false expectations paradox.”
Recent flu pandemics — like the avian influenza in 2005 and the H1N1 outbreak in 2009 — may have given people the wrong idea about how Covid-19 will play out, Horney said. Those past outbreaks came in multiple waves because of how their flu viruses behaved and were transmitted.
Epidemiologists are doing their best with past models and adjusting. But ultimately, the Covid-19 virus has its own viral behavior patterns. “Since it’s novel, we don’t know what it’s going to look like yet,” Horney said.