It’s a question everyone has been thinking about.
They don’t really disappear magically and are good at lying low (or hiding). But, eventually, they do go away or take other forms (which we call mutated versions).
Let’s look at the Spanish Flu of 1918, which caused a worldwide pandemic and caused a lot of deaths. It actually continued to come in some places until 1921. But what happened was that by then, most people became immune to it, which means over time, those who got the virus developed an immunity (resistance) to this kind of flu (caused by the virus). So, the virus became less deadly, but the pandemic did go on in small waves.
What happened was that the virus kept mutating (changing) and kept passing through humans and some animals. It eventually turned into just another seasonal flu. Experts have pointed out that the flu virus we get today actually came from the 1918 H1N1 virus (that’s what it was called)
Will the COVID virus go completely?
We can make viruses go away with vaccines. We did that with a very scary and deadly virus called smallpox – although it was the only infectious disease to have ever been eradicated. The last known natural case was in Somalia in 1977 (so, it’s been eradicated).
Scientists are trying very hard to create a COVID vaccine. In fact, there are so many people working on it that we might have more than one type of vaccine for this virus.
Very recently, a vaccine developed by two firms – US drug-maker called Pfizer (pronounced FIZER) and German biotech firm BioNTech – has been approved in the UK to become the first vaccine to get rolled out to people for mass vaccination.
Let’s look at another recent example
A disease called swine flu came up about eleven years ago and became a pandemic (like COVID). Lots of people got it before a vaccine got made. After vaccination, fewer people got it. It didn’t go away, but the vaccine helped.
Then there was SARS – a virus similar to COVID. It came up in 2003, but infected only about 8,000 people. It has not been since in humans since 2004. There was no vaccine, but there were a few steps that we took to get rid of SARS – mostly quarantine and isolation. IN the case of SARS it worked.
Why is that not working for COVID?
One of the main reasons is that COVID can spread even if someone is not feeling well. So, you could have COVID and have no symptoms, which means you won’t quarantine and thus pass it on. By the time you realise you have it (when you get a cough, cold, or fever), you would have given it to many people.
The trouble is that some people who are infected don’t get any symptoms at all – these are called asymptomatic cases (without symptoms) – and they are the ones who spread it the most.
Also, when people do get sick, it takes anywhere from five days to two weeks to develop symptoms – and again, they pass the virus in this time to other people.
Scientists say that with the combination of immunity and the vaccine, we will fight COVID – it could still make some people sick every year, like the flu. It will probably be around for a long time, even once this pandemic is over.