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When the deadly coronavirus started to sweep around the world this year, a common skeptical retort to emergency worry rested in the comparison of the COVID-19 outbreak to the ordinary flu — which is also dangerous to some populations, but also not a real threat to the general public.
Some experts, however, still maintain hope the virus will behave like influenza by fading in the Spring. But cases in countries presently in warm climates suggest otherwise, reports CNN.
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Coronavirus crisis in the summer
We know now the comparison of coronavirus to the common flu is, quite literally, dead wrong. Based on current data, the lowest estimated fatality rate for coronavirus is thought to be 1% to 2%, compared to the 0.1% of fatalities for winter influenza. Coronavirus also seems roughly just as infectious as the flu, and perhaps more so, especially since there is no specific treatment, seasonal vaccine, let alone a cure.
But the virus may taper off with the coming of Spring.
"This is a respiratory virus and they always give us trouble during cold weather, for obvious reasons," said Nelson Michael, a top U.S. military medical researcher, of the deadly virus last week, reports CNN. "We're all inside, the windows are closed, etcetera, so we typically call that the influenza or the flu season."
Influenza is at home in cold and dry conditions, which is why most of the northern hemisphere experiences flu season during winter. Differences in human behavior during winter may also affect the spread of viruses. According to Michael, the coronavirus could behave like the flu, giving the public "less trouble as the weather warms up," however, he warned, the virus might return when the temperature drops again.
Coronvirus might not behave like the flu, after all
The general hope is for new radical government and public action to decrease the currently soaring total of new cases, reducing the spread during more temperate weather and giving health systems a chance to play catch-up with the first wave of coronavirus patients, while also buying precious time to develop a crucial vaccine.
"This is why it's really important to understand that a lot of what we're doing now is getting ourselves ready for what we're calling the second wave of this," warned Michael.
However, the coronavirus might not behave like influenza. Instead, it could spread unrestrained despite warm weather, through all of 2020. More than 100 cases were confirmed in Singapore as of writing, where it's almost always hot and muggy. Likewise, Australia, Brazil, and Argentina are all in the middle of summer and have so far reported dozens of cases.
Whatever the future holds for the coronavirus crisis, there are known unknowns that could still prove to turn in our favor and help us collectively curb the rapid growth of the coronavirus outbreak. But, since this pandemic is new, the unknowns we don't know could outweigh the unknowns we do.