AUB researcher and virologist Dr. Hassan Zaraket received global notice recently as the senior author of a study published in
Frontiers in Public Health.
“Seasonality of Respiratory Viral Infections: Will COVID-19 Follow Suit?”
suggests that COVID-19 will likely become seasonal in countries with temperate climates, but only after herd immunity is attained. Until that time, COVID-19 will continue to circulate across all seasons. The study’s conclusions highlight the absolute importance of public health measures needed at this time just to control the virus.
“COVID-19 is here to stay,” Zaraket says, “and it will continue to cause outbreaks year-round until herd immunity is achieved. Therefore, the public will need to learn to live with it and continue practicing the best prevention measures, including wearing of masks, physical distancing, hand hygiene, and avoidance of gatherings.”
The researchers say that COVID-19, in comparison to other respiratory viruses such as the flu, has a higher rate of transmission, at least partly due to circulation in a largely immunologically naïve population. This means the factors governing seasonality of viruses cannot yet halt the spread of COVID-19 in the summer months, but once herd immunity is attained through natural infections and vaccinations, the rate of transmission should drop substantially, making the virus more susceptible to seasonal factors.
“We think it’s highly likely,” Zaraket says, “given what we know so far, COVID-19 will eventually become seasonal, like other coronaviruses.”
Collaborating author, Dr. Hadi Yassine of Qatar University in Doha adds, “The highest global COVID-19 infection rate per capita was recorded in the Gulf states, regardless of the hot summer season. Although this is majorly attributed to the rapid virus spread in closed communities, it affirms the need for rigorous control measures to limit virus spread, until herd immunity is achieved.”
The study was also co-authored by Amani Audi, Malak Allbrahim, Malak Kaddoura, and Ghina Hijazi from AUB.