Future

Expanding and Returning Pandemic

[Publication date of latest article cited: December 18, 2020]

In in the first four months of the pandemic, most potentially exposed people lived in more technologically developed areas. They could protect themselves from the transmission routes described above: staying more than two meters from others; buying and using soap and disinfectants; defecating in effective modern toilet and sewer systems; and staying at home living on their savings.  Infected people usually spread respiratory diseases locally to people near them, then flew in airplanes to other cities in highly developed nations, starting more outbreaks.  So, people of middle and upper socio-economic statuses spread the disease multi-nationally.  Then people in each local outbreak spread it to people of lower socio-economic statuses in highly developed nations.

As the pandemic spreads, people are starting to spread COVID-19 to billions of people in less technologically developed areas, who live in crowded slums, or small rural houses.  Many can afford to buy only a little soap, must use leaking sewers or simple latrines, or defecate outside, and have access to only basic health information and care.  These living conditions and actions could compel them to transmit these viruses to hundreds of millions, killing millions (Bisen and Raghuvanshi; Burki; Caruso, Freeman; Chotiner; Davis; Doherty; El-Sadr, Justman; Garrett; Hargreaves et al.; Hopman et al.; The Lancet “Redefining vulnerability”; The Lancet “COVID-19 in Latin America”; Malley, Malley; Quick; Shah; Wolfe).

People in less developed communities had been improving their health, prosperity, education, and gender relations for decades, but his pandemic is impelling them to reduce treatment and prevention for other diseases, earn less money, study less, and push women and girls into menial work (The Lancet Public Health “Will the COVID-19 pandemic threaten the SDGs”).  This deterioration could make them less able to protect themselves from COVID-19, in downward vicious circles.

Even if widespread testing, immunization, or curative treatments are not available, people’s use of social distancing and low-technology methods are reducing infections.  Comparing the responses of different countries, those that emphasized scientifically-guided non-pharmaceutical interventions tended to control COVID-19 better (Nkengasong et al.).  After the pandemic subsides in more developed communities, then people will relax their restrictions and re-start work.   It will continue to circulate and sicken people for years (Scudellari; Zhang S).  The virus could return from the still infected people in more developed communities (Cyranowski).  The virus could also return from less-developed communities and nations, and transmit to millions of not-yet-exposed people in more developed communities (Lee E, Wada, et al.).  So, all nations and communities will need to help each other stop this pandemic.

People will isolate most of the severe infected COVID-19 patients, or they will die before they infect many people. So, the SARS-CoV-2 infecting them will not transmit to others.  This will eliminate those viruses from natural selection.  Consequently, years in the future, SARS-CoV-2 will probably mutate into forms causing almost entirely asymptomatic to moderate infections, like the many other coronaviruses and influenza viruses that infect millions each year (Racaniello).

The development and use of vaccines will stop transmission in countries in which almost all of the people are immunized.  But it will take years to produce enough vaccines to immunize almost all of the world’s people.  Until then, COVID-19 will continue spreading (The Lancet Microbe “COVID-19 vaccines: the pandemic will not end overnight”).  Even in communities in which most are immunized, COVID-19 will cause sporadic outbreaks.

 

Acknowledgements

This research did not receive any grant from funding agencies.

Eleanora Robbins, PhD, proof-read and suggested revisions for an earlier draft.

 

Declaration of Interests

The author declares no competing financial or personal interests.