Trump said people think the coronavirus will go away in April. Some experts say that could happen - but it's not purely a good thing.
- A coronavirus outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China, has killed at least 1,000 people and infected more than 42,000 across 26 countries.
- President Trump said on Monday that "a lot of people" - including Chinese president Xi Jinping - think the coronavirus will go away in April.
- Coronaviruses and other respiratory illnesses like the flu do tend to retreat in hotter, more humid weather.
- But even if the new coronavirus naturally subsides come spring, there virus could return in the winter.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
President Donald Trump issued an optimistic prediction about the novel coronavirus outbreak on Monday: "A lot of people think that goes away in April, with the heat that comes in," he said.Speaking with US governors at the White House about the coronavirus, the president added, "I had a long talk with President Xi - for the people in this room - two nights ago, and he feels very confident. He feels that, again as I mentioned, by April or during the month of April, the heat, generally speaking, kills this kind of virus."Advertisement
Since the coronavirus outbreak started in Wuhan, China, in December, it has killed at least 1,000 people and infected more than 42,600 in 26 countries, including the US.
Trump and Xi's hopes that the virus could taper off in the warmer months are not be off-base.Amesh Adalja, an infectious-disease expert at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, previously told Business Insider that the four coronaviruses that circulate in people - viruses that cause mild colds - have seasonality much like the flu.
So cases of the new virus "may temper off as we leave spring and enter summer," Adalja said.But that doesn't mean it would disappear forever. More likely, the virus could retreat in the spring and summer and return come fall and winter."If you look at the trajectory of the virus and how it's spreading in communities, coupled with the fact that we deal with coronaviruses every year during flu and cold season, those factors point to this coronavirus becoming a seasonal virus," Adalja said.Advertisement
'The 5th community-acquired coronavirus'
Trump's comments on Monday echo a tweet the president posted on Friday after talking with President Xi.
"He feels they are doing very well, even building hospitals in a matter of only days. Nothing is easy, but ... he will be successful, especially as the weather starts to warm & the virus hopefully becomes weaker, and then gone," Trump tweeted.Last week, S&P Global made a similar prediction, saying it expects the coronavirus outbreak will "stabilize globally in April 2020, with virtually no new transmissions in May."Advertisement
It added: "Our worst-case projection holds that the virus stops spreading in late May, and optimistically in March."
The coronavirus, whose scientific name is 2019-nCoV, is a respiratory illness with pneumonialike symptoms. It spreads via coughing and close contact between people. The four other coronaviruses that are endemic - meaning permanently present - in the global human population all cause common colds, though each can cause pneumonia and death in rare instances.
According to Adalja, the new virus could easily become a member of the club of constantly circulating, endemic coronaviruses.
"We have to be prepared for this to become the fifth community-acquired coronavirus," he said.That means the virus would likely resurface again later in the year.Advertisement
Why the coronavirus could become seasonal like the flu
The flu virus "survives better in cool, dry temperatures," Amanda Simanek, an epidemiologist at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, told Insider.It's seasonal in this way because cooler temperatures help harden a protective gel-like coating that surrounds the virus while it's in the air. A stronger shell ensures it can survive long enough to travel from one person to the next.But whereas the flu virus' genes change via a process called antigenic drift, coronaviruses are "somewhat less prone to mutation than flu," Stephen Morse, an epidemiologist at Columbia University, told Business Insider. (Each small mutation of the flu, on the other hand, gives rise to a new, closely related flu virus that our immune systems have to start fighting from scratch - that's why flu vaccines aren't always 100% effective.)Advertisement
But not all health experts agree that the coronavirus could weaken in April."It's a respiratory virus, and we know respiratory viruses are very seasonal, but not exclusively," William Schaffner, an infectious-disease specialist at Vanderbilt University, told CNN. "One would hope that the gradual spring will help this virus recede. We can't be sure of that."Advertisement
Of Trump's remarks, he added: "His hope is our hope. But we don't have knowledge that it will do that."
- Read more about the Wuhan virus:
- Everything we know about the deadly Wuhan virus sweeping across China
- There's a good chance the Wuhan coronavirus will never disappear, experts say. There are only 3 possible endings to this story.
- The genetic code of the Wuhan coronavirus shows it's 80% similar to SARS. New research suggests a potential way to neutralize the virus.
- The Wuhan coronavirus has killed more people in 6 weeks than SARS did in 8 months. Here's how the 2 outbreaks compare.
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