WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- As President Donald Trump stated his optimistic outlook that the coronavirus epidemic will end with winter, experts on infectious diseases are disputing his claim.
- While most viral outbreaks indeed thrive in the colder months, not all outbreaks subside as the weather warms.
- Experts warn that the current novel coronavirus remains shrouded in mystery on several fronts — which will make it difficult to predict the outbreak’s duration.
President Donald Trump had declared on Monday that he expected the coronavirus epidemic to subside towards the end of winter, but experts on infectious diseases are disputing his claim.
During a White House business session with state governors, Trump agreed with the perception that the outbreak will “go away in April as the heat comes in.”
He added, “We’re in great shape though. We have 12 cases, 11 cases, and many of them are in good shape.”
The virus known as 2019-nCoV has so far infected more than 42,000 people globally and killed more than 1,000. There are currently 12 confirmed cases in the U.S., with 68 other potential cases waiting on tests.
The president’s optimistic remarks worried some experts who believe he might not have a complete understanding of the current threat.
Dr. Britta Lassmann, program director for the International Society for Infectious Diseases, told HuffPost that we are still lacking information “on the role of temperature and climate on the transmissibility of 2019-nCoV” needed to make a definite prediction of the outbreak’s duration.
Most viral outbreaks indeed thrive in the colder months, mostly because lower humidity in winter allows a virus to remain in the air longer, and people tend to spend more time indoors in close proximity to others. However, not all outbreaks subside as the weather warms.
The novel coronavirus, especially, remains shrouded in mystery on several fronts. So far, there’s no definite conclusion on how it spreads, how long it takes for an infected person to show symptoms, or how to cure it. And it has already surpassed the death toll of the SARS outbreak 17 years ago.
Dr. Tom Frieden, a former director of the CDC, explained, “Although some coronavirus infections are seasonal, only time will tell if the 2019 novel coronavirus will behave this way. Some coronavirus species have peaks in the winter and summer.”
Frieden, who is also CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative focused on preventing epidemics, added that the weather’s impact on a disease’s spread can vary across different climates.
Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, also warned about this virus’s unpredictability even before Trump made his comments.
Schaffner told USA Today last week, “Could it be that the change of seasons has an impact on the virus? Lord knows, we hope so. It happens with human coronaviruses, we know that. But this is a rogue virus.”