There is a great chance that the new coronavirus will return in seasonal cycles, a senior US scientist said on Wednesday, underlining the urgent need to find a vaccine and effective treatments.
Anthony Fauci, who heads research on infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said in a briefing that the virus would take root in the southern hemisphere, where winter is on its way.
"What we're seeing now … in southern Africa and the southern hemisphere is that we have cases that pop up when they go into their winter season," he said.
"And if they do have a significant outbreak, it will be inevitable that we will have to be prepared to get a cycle the second time.
"It underscores the need to do what we do to develop a vaccine, test it quickly, and try to get it ready so that we have a vaccine for the next cycle."
There are currently two vaccines in human trials – one in the United States and one in China – and they could be one to one and a half years away from use.
Treatments are also being investigated – some new drugs and others that have been used for other purposes, including the antimalarials chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.
"I know that we will now be able to put this down, but we really need to be prepared for another cycle," Fauci concluded.
Fauci's comments that the virus performs better in colder weather than in hot and humid conditions follow a recent Chinese research report that is still preliminary and awaiting peer review and has reached the same conclusion.
It is believed that the reasons are that breath droplets stay in the air longer in colder weather and that cold weather weakens immunity.
Another possible reason is that viruses are broken down more quickly on hotter surfaces, possibly because a surrounding protective layer of fat dries out faster.
However, a reduced infection rate does not mean that the virus is eliminated. In Australia, for example, almost 2,500 cases and 8 deaths have been confirmed.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)