December 21, 2021
As I mentioned 18 months ago, COVID will be like other beta coronaviruses. It will be a virus that will stay for many years. No virus in human history can remain in “pandemic” mode indefinitely. If it did, it would not survive as all of its hosts would succumb to the disease. This virus family has caused cold and respiratory symptoms for hundreds of years. A recent study showed the typical weather patterns of coronavirus were greatest in mid to late winter in the following areas:
This map looks familiar. With new variants of COVID developing, the rate of infections in populations mimics the seasonality of the virus family. South Africa just ended its winter, seeing the Omicron variant develop. In highly vaccinated countries, the COVID 19 virus will develop seasonal patterns in temperate and cold climates. However, it is important to remember that the data still looks very good in highly vaccinated populations. People who are vaccinated have a chance of getting COVID, but the symptoms are usually mild, occasionally moderate, and have not resulted in significant increases in hospitalization. If you are not vaccinated, the following graphs tell the story.
The good news is getting a booster will improve your chances over 75% of not even getting a mild case of COVID, including the new variant. Also, all of the seasonal cases and new variants do not have an outpatient pill to treat the condition until now. The new antiviral pill, Paxlovid, should be approved by the FDA and available in the next few weeks. This pill reduces illness symptoms dramatically and avoids hospitalizations in over 90% of all cases.
As frustrating as it seems, this direction of COVID is the expected natural history of a coronavirus. The best you can do is get vaccinated, boosted, and maintain good hygiene. As always, take care of your lung health and plan on accessing an urgent care for a 5-day course of antivirals in case you test positive for COVID. Before you know it, COVID 19 will be part of the many viruses we see in the cold winter months. However, we will be armed with highly effective medication options to keep the disease burden to a minimum.
Dr. Inderpal Randhawa
Founder and CEO of Southern California Food Allergy Institute