WINNIPEG (CityNews) – A doctor researching emerging viruses says COVID-19 has the potential to become a yearly occurrence.
Virologist Jason Kindrachuk says the virus could very well become endemic – meaning the rate of recovery is equal to the rate of infection.
“Based on the transmission rates, and what we’re seeing in regards to vaccine rollouts across the globe, there is a potential it becomes endemic,” said Kindrachuk, a professor and Canada Research Chair in emerging viruses at the University of Manitoba.
Kindrachuk believes if people receive the COVID-19 vaccination quickly and in large numbers, the virus cannot spread with the same ease.
That spread, he says, is being exacerbated by variants of the virus. Several cases of the so-called United Kingdom variant and the South African variant of COVID-19 have been found in Canada.
“We look at this as a race,” he said. “We’ve started to see variants emerging. They’ve been emerging since the beginning of the pandemic, but these are the first ones that are very concerning.”
So will the virus come back every year like the flu?
According the virologists, influenza strikes every year because flu strains mutate quickly and bounce between humans and animals. That means there’s always a host for mutation.
But COVID-19 mutates less often than a flu strain, and human to animal transmission is believed to be less common than with the flu. This has some believing COVID’s effects may become less serious over time.
Kevin Coombs, a professor of medical microbiology at the University of Manitoba, does not believe there will be a new strain of the virus every year.
“I believe the coronavirus will be in our population and will be changing but not as fast as influenza,” said Coombs. “So I’m hoping, fingers crossed, that we may not need coronavirus shots other than once every five or six years.”