New Delhi: SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, may resemble the mild cold-causing coronaviruses that currently circulate in humans if it becomes endemic and most people are exposed in childhood, according to a study.
The modeling study, published on Tuesday in the journal Science, is based on the research of the four common cold coronaviruses and SARS-CoV-1.
The analysis of the immunological and epidemiological data for these viruses helped the researchers to develop a model to predict the trajectory of SARS-CoV-2 as it becomes endemic when the virus circulates in the general population.
The researchers noted that four common cold-causing coronaviruses have been circulating in humans for a long time and almost everyone is infected at a young age.
Natural infection in childhood provides immunity that protects people later in life against severe disease, but it doesn't prevent periodic reinfection, said Jennie Lavine, from Emory University in the US, first author of the study.
The research suggests that endemic SARS-CoV-2 may become a disease of early childhood, where the first infection occurs between 3 and 5 years old, and the disease itself would be mild.
Older individuals could still become infected, but their childhood infections would provide immune protection against severe disease, according to the researchers.
How fast this shift comes depends on how fast the virus spreads and what kind of immune response the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines induce, they said.
The model suggests that if the vaccines induce short-lived protection against becoming reinfected but reduce the severity of the disease, as is the case with other endemic coronaviruses, SARS-CoV-2 may become endemic more quickly.
"This model assumes immunity to SARS-CoV-2 works similar to other human coronaviruses. We don't really know what it would be like if someone got one of the other coronaviruses for the first time as an adult, rather than as a child, Lavine said.
The model predicts that the infection fatality ratio for SARS-CoV-2 may fall below that of seasonal influenza (0.1 percent), once an endemic steady-state is reached.
"We are in uncharted territory, but a key take-home message from the study is that immunological indicators suggest that fatality rates and the critical need for broad-scale vaccination may wane in the near term," said Ottar Bjornstad, a professor, and epidemiologist at Penn State.
He noted that maximum effort should be on weathering this virgin pandemic en route to endemicity.
A safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19 could save hundreds of thousands of lives in the first year or two of vaccine roll-out, but continued mass vaccination may be less critical once SARS-CoV-2 becomes endemic, the researchers said.
Targeted vaccination in vulnerable subpopulations may still save lives, they said.
The researchers also noted that if primary infections of children are mild when the virus becomes endemic, widespread vaccination may not be necessary.
However, if primary infections become severe in children, as in the case of more deadly but contained coronaviruses such as MERS, childhood vaccinations should be continued, the added.
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New Delhi, May 16: The Centre directed Uttar Pradesh and Bihar on Sunday to prevent dumping of dead bodies in the Ganga and its tributaries, and focus on their safe disposal and a dignified cremation after corpses were seen floating in these rivers following a spurt in the number of coronavirus cases.
At a review meeting conducted on May 15-16, the Centre said dumping of dead bodies and partially burnt or decomposed corpses in the Ganga and its tributaries has recently been reported, which is "most undesirable and alarming".
"Namami Gange directs states to prevent dumping of dead bodies in the Ganga and focus on their safe disposal and providing support for ensuring dignified cremation," the Jal Shakti Ministry said.
The state pollution control boards were directed to monitor the water quality more frequently in consultations with the health departments.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) was assigned the task of overall monitoring, providing guidance to the state pollution control boards and taking up advanced analysis in the matter.
Support for cremation needs to be given top priority. Effective implementation of the government orders needs to be ensured. No loss of time should take place in implementation, the ministry said.
An advisory was issued by Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, Director General, National Mission for Clean Ganga, to the district magistrates, who are also the chairpersons of the district Ganga committees, on May 11.
This was followed up by a letter the next day to the chief secretaries to prevent the dumping of dead bodies in the river and ensure enforcement of the government guidelines on the cremation of COVID-19 victims.
The letter also advised the states to provide financial assistance as well as regulate the rates for the cremation or burial process.
On May 15, the steps taken in this regard in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were reviewed at a meeting chaired Pankaj Kumar, Secretary, Ministry of Jal Shakti, and further action points were decided.
Highlighting the instructions already given, Kumar had called for expeditious action and underscored the need to give equal attention to such incidents in urban and rural areas along the Ganga and other rivers.
"Stopping of dumping of dead bodies as well as their safe disposal and protection of water quality have to be ensured on a war footing. After knowing the progress from the states, the CWC (Central Water Commission), the CPCB and the state pollution control boards would also be giving their feedback and action plans," he had said.
Mishra stated that the situation is being monitored and follow-up action is being taken in several districts such as Unnao, Kanpur rural, Ghazipur and Balia in Uttar Pradesh and Buxar and Saran in Bihar.
However, some cases have also been reported from other districts. He asked the state missions to keep an eye on the situation.
Mishra emphasised the need to strengthen enforcement, maintain vigil and take proactive action to facilitate and support the families for the cremation of the bodies and asked the state missions to specifically report on this.
"If needed, the project directors can assess and also give support to the district Ganga committees for this out of the NMCG funds available with them, while keeping the NMCG informed," he said.
Rajnish Dubey, Additional Chief Secretary, Urban Development, and Anurag Shrivastav, Principal Secretary, Jal Shakti and Project Director, State Ganga Mission, represented Uttar Pradesh in the meeting.
Shrivastava said all the district magistrates have been alerted about the issue and patrolling is being carried out to prevent dumping of dead bodies in the Ganga.
He also informed that 13 crematoria under Namami Gange, in addition to the existing ones, have been made available for the cremation of dead bodies.
It was informed that orders have been issued for financial support for cremations in urban areas. Dubey said similar orders for a financial support of Rs 5,000 have been issued by the Panchayati Raj department for rural areas and the SDRF and other forces have also been asked to carry out patrolling.
Anand Kishore, Principal Secretary, Urban Development and Project Director, State Ganga Mission, Government of Bihar, informed that it has been decided that the cremation or burial expenses of those dying due to COVID-19 will be borne by the state government.
He added that even if the deceased did not have a COVID-positive report but showed symptoms of the disease, the family will be offered this support.
He also said patrolling is being done to prevent further dumping of dead bodies in the river, especially in districts like Buxar and Saran (Chhapra).
CWC Chairman S K Halder informed that they are monitoring the flow and the water quality of the river through their stations and will further increase the frequency.
CPCB Member Secretary Prashant Gargava said the board has forewarned all water monitoring stations along the Ganga and her tributaries. The periodicity of testing the water quality has also been increased.
Debashree Mukherjee, Additional Secretary with the Jal Shakti Ministry, stated that besides an urgent assessment of the risks to the riverside communities by the pollution control boards, there is a need to raise awareness on the dos and don'ts as regards the use of river water and to prevent such incidents of dumping of bodies in the river.