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There are basically three ways to stop the Covid disease for good. One involves extraordinary restrictions on free movement and assembly, as well as aggressive testing, to interrupt its transmission entirely.
That may be impossible now that the virus is in over countries. The second is a vaccine that could protect everyone, but it still needs to be developed.
If the virus keeps spreading, eventually so many people will have been infected and if they survive become immune that the outbreak will fizzle out on its own as the germ finds it harder and harder to find a susceptible host. This phenomenon is known as herd immunity. What is herd immunity? What is serological testing? How does the coronavirus work?
What is herd immunity and can it stop the coronavirus?
What are the potential treatments? Which drugs work best?
What's the right way to do social distancing? Other frequently asked questions about coronavirus.
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The covid special issue. Wide, unstoppable spread of the coronavirus is exactly an outcome experts are modeling in their worst-case scenarios. They are informed by the point at which epidemiologists say herd immunity should kick in for this particular virus. But shooting for herd immunity right away would be a disastrous strategy, according to the newest models.
The UK this week aled it would instead do more to suppress the virus, including discouraging gatherings. Slowing it down would mean health systems could be spared and lives saved, but ultimately the result could be the same. That is, even if the pandemic is drawn out over time, it may still take herd immunity to bring it to an end.
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When enough of the population is resistant to a germ, its spread stops naturally because not enough people are able to transmit it. Consider the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne illness that caused a epidemic panic in because of a link to birth abnormalities. Two years later, inthere was no longer nearly so much to worry about. Various v accine efforts are under way for this coronavirusbut they may not be ready for more than a year.
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Even then, vaccine makers can find themselves in a losing race with nature to see which protects the herd first. For herd immunity to take hold, people must become resistant after they are infected. That occurs with many germs: people who are infected and recover become resistant to getting that disease again, because their immune system is charged with antibodies able to defeat it. The R0 for the coronavirus is between 2 and 2. To imagine how herd immunity works, think of coronavirus cases multiplying in a susceptible population this way: 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, and so on.
Then, according to the Science Media Centre, the outbreak simmers along like this instead: 1, 1, 1, 1 … The outbreak is snuffed out once the infection rate is less than 1. The more infectious a virus is, the more people need to be immune for us to achieve herd immunity.
Similarly, if the coronavirus spre more easily than the experts think, more people will need to get it before herd immunity is reached. Those economically costly measures could continue for many months.
A third is potentially effective but horrible to consider: just wait until enough people get it. More on coronavirus Our most essential coverage of covid is free, including: What is herd immunity? In a simple model of an outbreak, each case infects two more, creating an exponential increase in disease.
But once half the population is immune, an outbreak no longer grows in size. When do we reach immunity? Latest content View more.