Where Will COVID-19 Be 1 Year From Now?
A sad and tragic history of COVID-19 continues to play out throughout the world, claiming lives and disrupting our very social fiber – the need for human connection. As of April 28, the death toll around the globe has reached 211,000 from over three million cases. According to data released by Johns Hopkins University, more than 896,000 individuals around the world have successfully recovered from the virus.
But as we struggle to accept the bitter reality of current day, it is still necessary – albeit daunting – to look ahead into the future shaped by the current pandemic. But in order to look ahead, it is equally important to study the history and trajectory of COVID-19.
What Is A Coronavirus?
Coronavirus is actually a name given to a family of viruses, which cause illnesses that range from the common cold to the more severe kind like the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the current COVID-19.
It is understood that various types of coronaviruses circulate among animal populations. Some of these viruses can be transmitted from animals to humans, while others that are currently circulating in animals have yet to develop infectivity to humans. COVID-19 or the new coronavirus is actually the seventh known to affect the human population.
The Origins of the Virus
The origin story of the COVID-19 outbreak has been pretty well cemented in the public mind. It is generally agreed upon that sometime in late 2019, the first transmission of the disease from animal to human occurred in Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, the capital city of China’s Hubei province.
It is on December 31 2019, that Chinese Health officials informed the World Health Organization about 41 patients suffering from mysterious cases of pneumonia.
Most of these individuals were somehow connected to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which is said to have dealt in the illegal trade of live animals. By January 1, 2020, the said seafood market was closed.
The catastrophic and vast spread of the virus that has followed still continues to play out before our very eyes. And yet, much interest and focus is being placed on that very moment of transmission in efforts to better understand and combat against the virus. Here’s how scientists believe it happened.
Which Animals Played A Role
Exactly how the COVID-19 virus managed to move from its initial animal hosts to humans remain shrouded in mystery. Understanding the path that the virus took in its mutation toward humans is key for scientists’ ability to fight against it. And yet, the exact sequence of transference is still unclear.
It is generally accepted that COVID-19 originated in bats and has since moved to the human population. According to J.S.M. Peiris, Coronaviruses have been historically shown to transfer from bats to other mammals and then onto humans. In fact, the common cold, which is caused by coronaviruses called HCoV 229E and OC43, has been able to cross between “animal reservoirs” of bats and cattle before reaching humans in the last 200 years. But whether or not that intermediate link between bats and humans occurred with COVID-19 still remains debated.
Many have pointed to the pangolins – a scaly mammal that is widely and illegally traded for its alleged health benefits. Because these are among the most frequently traded animals on the black market and are also known to carry strains of the Coronavirus, they are assumed by some to be the intermediate link between bats and humans. They were also assumed to be sold in the Huanan Seafood Market before its closing.
However, others still strongly maintain that closer testing of the coronavirus strain specific to pangolins, has shown that it doesn’t match that currently affecting humans. Overall, the question of whether or not an intermediate mammal played a role in the transmission of COVID-19 from bats to humans still remains unanswered.
COVID-19 One Year From Now
Companies across the world are scrambling to develop a vaccination or find a drug to treat COVID-19, the outlook for the next 12 months looks rather bleak due to the necessity of lengthy testing and trial periods. Furthermore, countries around the world are presently facing increased pressure to lift quarantine laws due to the severe economic blow they have had on their economies. Yet, without an available vaccine the virus is predicted to continue to cause waves of infection over the next 12 to 18 months.
While social distancing does flatten the curve, it doesn’t get rid of the virus or lessen the overall number of infections, it only spreads them out over a longer period of time. At this stage, this is the most effective approach we have to dealing with this virus as not to overwhelm our medical system. As daunting as the thought may be, social distancing may become a part of our new social norm until an effective vaccine has been developed and is made available to the world’s population.
As we brace ourselves for the unknown, what truly results from this historic catastrophe still remains to be seen.