For two years now we have been immersed in a pandemic that has caused more than 400 million confirmed cases and over 5.7 million official deaths, though the real number of fatalities is estimated to be in excess of 17 million. The most significant threats to health produced by the pandemic will come to an end, as has occurred with all previous pandemics. The question is when, how and following how many deaths.
SARS-CoV-2 has animal reservoirs, and consequently cannot be eradicated (in other words, eliminated from the planet). Its main reservoir seems to be the horseshoe bat, but the virus is capable of infecting other non-human species that live with us, such as cats, farm animals and even game.
SARS-CoV-2 is expected to continue circulating among the human population, at least in the near future, and to generate new variants that will affect us in different ways depending on the vaccination coverage in each country and the prevention measures adopted. Recent studies suggest that COVID-19 will behave like a seasonal infection similar to influenza and will cause epidemic peaks in the cold months (when we spend more time indoors, with less ventilation).
It seems the most probable scenario for the coming years or decades is one in which the virus will become endemic and we will live with it as we do with the other four human coronaviruses that cause common colds. But predicting what will happen in the future has proved to be extremely risky throughout this pandemic.
In this discussion we will place all the data on the table and try to shed a little light on possible future courses of events. What COVID-19 indicators might be the most relevant from now on? Considering the high level of vaccine coverage in Spain, should we continue to worry about the number of infections? To what do we refer when we talk about fluization? Is it a plausible scenario? What differences and similarities could there be with the annual epidemics of influenza, an illness with vaccine and thousands of deaths every year? What relevant information is provided by the data from other virus epidemics in Spain, such as influenza or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)?
Antoni Trilla, epidemiologist at the Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology Unit of Hospital Clínic in Barcelona, professor of Public Health at the Universitat de Barcelona and Research Professor at ISGlobal (Institut de Salut Global de Barcelona).
Clara Pratsz, associate professor at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, researcher of the Computational Biology and Complex Systems Group (BIOCOM-SC) and responsible for computational models at the Comparative Medicine and Bioimage Centre of the Germans Trias i Pujol Institute for Research in Health Sciences (IGTP).
Ariadna Oltra, journalist and presenter at TV3.