Coronavirus is “a big wave”, not seasonal, suggests WHO expert


TORONTO – Coronavirus cases around the world may be ‘one big wave’ rather than a series of multiple waves, according to World Health Organization doctor, but other experts cast doubts on this kind of analogies. “It will be a big wave,” WHO spokesperson Dr Margaret Harris said at a press conference on Tuesday.

“It’s going to go up and down a bit… the best thing is to flatten it out and turn it into something lapping at your feet.” But at the moment, first, second, third wave, these things don’t really make sense and we don’t really define them that way.

For months, health officials in Canada and around the world have described COVID-19 cases in “waves” and urged the public to help “flatten the curve” ahead of a “second wave” expected this fall. The description of multi-wave pandemics dates back to the Spanish Flu of 1918, when more than 50 million people died in three separate waves.

A century later, Harris says this pandemic may be different.

“People still think about the seasons. What we all need to understand is that this is a new virus and… this one behaves differently, ”she said.

July was a record month for new cases of COVID-19 worldwide, due to outbreaks in the United States and Brazil. The number of cases in Canada has generally declined, but the country has not yet completely flattened its curve.

Canada’s current trajectory looks like a strong wave that peaked on May 3, with 2,760 new cases, and experienced a second more gradual bump in July.

But some health experts oppose the practice of describing the pandemic in waves, either as “one big wave” or as several consecutive waves. Dr. Michael Curry, an emergency physician in Delta, British Columbia, and assistant clinical professor at the University of British Columbia, encourages a wait-and-see approach.

“I think we should stay away from any characterization of waves until we can look at this in retrospect,” Curry told in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

“We know that could change quickly, and there is no set pattern as to how pandemics unfold.”

Curry acknowledged that the pandemic remains a fluid situation and that all it takes to trigger another wave is a case. But he says too much emphasis has been placed on comparing COVID-19 to influenza, which follows a seasonal pattern, when in fact the two viruses are quite different.

“Whenever we are dealing with a new station, whether in the health of the economy, we always try to relate it to past situations. So with COVID-19, it’s an infectious viral infection, and we’ve always tried to link it to the flu, ”he said.

“We still think it’s the flu when it’s not the flu, and we don’t even understand why the flu has this seasonality.”

He compares attempts to characterize the trajectory of COVID-19 as similar to trying to predict a stock market peak.

“You don’t know if the stock market has peaked until it has peaked, otherwise we would all be very rich,” he said.

Using the ‘second wave’ to describe the expected increase in cases this drop can be a useful tool for public messaging, but some doctors say it is more of a communication strategy than a precise scientific measurement.

“There is nothing so specific about it. It’s more just a useful communication tool, ”Steven Hoffman, professor of global health, law and political science at York University in Toronto and director of the Global Strategy Lab, told in a previous interview. .

Waves or not, the important thing is to employ effective public health strategies to tackle the cases, said Dr. Eleanor Fish, professor of immunology at the University of Toronto.

“Whether it’s a big wave, second and third waves or cluster outbreaks… (the) key is to be prepared with rapid testing and contact tracing for blunt transmission in communities.” said Fish.

Canada recorded 115,470 cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, and 8,917 people died. More than 6,000 cases are considered active.

With files from CTV’s Jackie Dunham


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