August 4th, 2020

What’s Up Doc?: A second wave could come later this year, or not

By Medicine Hat News Opinion on May 12, 2020.

“Epidemics are like fires. When fuel is plentiful, they rage uncontrollably, and when it is scarce, they smolder slowly.” – Justin Lessler, an associate professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University, wrote in the Washington Post in March.

The problem is we do not know how much fuel COVID-19 virus is left with.

This question has been bothering me. So, I went on the Internet and did my research. Here is the summary of what I learned.

Pandemics are caused by new bugs that the vast majority of humans have no immune protection against. That is what allows them to become global outbreaks.

Let us define what is meant by second wave. Second wave occurs when new cases emerge after a sustained period of time when there is no infection or very few infections.

Is a second wave of COVID-19 pandemic imminent? Experts believe it is quite possible but they cannot be sure.

The new virus has spread around the world and is expected to recede. A few months later, it will come back and spread around the world, or large parts of it, again.

While second waves and secondary peaks within the period of a pandemic are technically different, the concern is essentially the same: the disease comes back in force.

It is expected the second wave could emerge later this year and make for an even more dire health crisis. This is because the virus would have been contained, not treated.

The pandemic will resurface with renewed strength, causing a repeat of rising infections, swamped health systems and the necessity of lockdowns. Experts believe a second surge will be harder to contain. A second wave, could be in October, would require more extensive restrictions than were initially imposed.

If the COVID-19 virus mutates, just like the flu virus which mutates constantly, there will be a constant battle each year to find appropriate vaccine.

Experts have suggested that the key to keeping infections low without locking down everyone is to scale up testing and contact tracing.

Health authorities need to find infected people, isolate them, and identify their recent contacts, so they can be tested as well and isolated if necessary. Eventually, it is possible that enough people will become exposed to the coronavirus that herd immunity will develop and it will stop spreading, or that a vaccine against it will be licensed.

Herd immunity is also called community immunity and herd or group protection. Herd immunity happens when so many people in a community become immune to an infectious disease that it stops the disease from spreading.

Dr. Gregory Poland, a Mayo Clinic COVID-19 expert, offers his insight on the effect of a potential second wave of COVID-19 this coming fall in the U.S. (Mayo Clinic website):

1. When you think about COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., it started in mid to late February, so we were in fact past our influenza epidemic. It’s unlikely that will happen this fall. Rather, we will have, in an overlapping fashion, influenza epidemics and COVID-19 recurrence occurring.

2. One problem with that potential scenario, he says, is that the symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 overlap nearly exactly.

3. The second concern is the tremendous surge in demand on the medical system.

4. The third concern will be the anxiety around that. Do we really close everything down again and do what we’ve just been through over the last several months?

What’s really going to be key is to encourage everybody six months of age and older, which is the national recommendation, to get a flu vaccine and in this case to get it as early as it’s available – not wait until December and January.

We should be prepared to face the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic this fall and winter. We should get a flu vaccine as soon as it is available and NOT wait until December or January. And take all the precautions which are well known by now. Be safe and take care.

Dr. Bharwani is a general surgeon, freelance writer, photographer and author of A Doctor’s Journey and Doctor B’s Eight Steps to Wellness. His latest book is available at Shoppers Drug (Medicine Hat Mall), and http://www.nbharwani.com. You can discuss this article and other articles on his website: nbharwani.com and sign up for RSS feed, Twitter or get on the email list

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