As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to expand globally, many are asking what may happen to the outbreak as winter turns to spring. Other viral respiratory diseases, such as influenza, are seasonal in that cases decrease in the spring and summer. But unlike the flu, no one knows what to expect from COVID-19.
"At this point, we don't know enough about this virus to understand how it's going to behave over time," says Dr. Pritish Tosh, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist.
Journalists: Broadcast-quality sound bites with Dr. Pritish Tosh are in the downloads at the end of the post. Please courtesy "Pritish Tosh, M.D./Infectious Diseases/Mayo Clinic."
Dr. Tosh says based on what we know about past outbreaks, there are a few possible outcomes.
"In 2003, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) caused an outbreak, but not quite to the magnitude we're seeing here. But as the weather warmed up, we were able to contain the virus. It went away, essentially completely," explains Dr. Tosh.
"If you look at avian influenza outbreaks, occasionally those come up and then reemerge every once in a while, go away, and then come back."
Dr. Tosh says another outbreak, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), is now endemic in the Middle East.
"One of these three things is going to happen with this new coronavirus, and we will have to see over time which of these it will be," says Dr. Tosh.