What does the second wave of Covid-19 mean and how to prevent it?

A recent spike in Covid-19 cases in many states in the United States, including several emerging hot spots, is technically still part of the “first wave” of the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean a second wave isn’t coming.

So what constitutes a second wave, and what would it look like? Also, is there anything that can be done to stop it?

Here’s what you need to know about a possible second wave of Covid-19.

What a ‘second wave’ means

The United States is still in the “first wave” of Covid-19 infections. “You hear people say, ‘We are heading for a second wave.’ [but] it is not, “Dr. Greg Poland, professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, founder and director of the Mayo Vaccine Research Group, tells CNBC Make It.” It is all part of this continuous reservoir of infection in the NOS ”

For the first wave to end, the number of Covid-19 positive infections would have to reach a low single digit, Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, he told The Washington Post on June 18 (in New Zealand, for example, there was a 24-day streak without infection until June 16, when two positive travelers arrived in Auckland). “When you get there, you might feel like you have a good degree of control, so when you get a new infection, you can prevent that infection from becoming a resurgence of many, many more.”

After that, a “second wave” would occur when the virus returns or when a new strain of the virus develops, Ian Lipkin, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University, previously told CNBC. com. For example, the influenza virus causes the flu season at about the same time (late fall with a peak in winter) each year, although the particular strain and magnitude of the virus may differ.

What to expect from a second wave

The next wave of Covid-19 is unpredictable, because there is still so much about the virus that we don’t know about, Fauci told The Washington Post.

“[The second wave is] it’s going to depend on your capacity and effectiveness when you get these little infection spots, which we will invariably get, that you have the systems, the tests, the manpower to identify, isolate and trace contacts, “he said.” If you do, you don’t it is inevitable that I will have a second wave in the fall. ”

A second wave would be similar to the one we experienced in the spring of 2020, but it could be more difficult to control in the fall, when people are tired of social distancing, Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health TH Chan and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, told the American Medical Association in May. People are likely to have to follow the same prevention measures that worked in the first wave, such as wearing masks and social distancing.

The fear is that Covid-19 may return as a second wave in the fall (peaking in November and December) that coincides with the flu season.

A second wave during the flu season could potentially overwhelm the health system, “and we have a big problem,” Dr. Mary Beth Sexton, an assistant professor of medicine at Emory University in Georgia, told CNBC. In this scenario, there could be “a large influx of cases” at a time when people plan to return to school and work, making them more difficult to tackle, she says.

Whether or not we see a return like this “is influenced, at least in part, by how well we do on infection control measures, such as distancing, wearing masks, and handwashing,” he says. Sexton. “Therefore, we could affect the change in the height of that peak.” In truth, we are likely to continue to see peaks and valleys related to how well people are practicing prevention measures, and when we have an effective vaccine or treatment, she says.

What can be done now to prevent it?

The threat of a second wave is very serious and could cost people their lives and economic well-being, Poland says. “If we have a second wave on a large scale, she could lose her job,” she says. “People don’t seem to be making those connections.”

So what can you do? For starters, you should stay away from people and practice hand hygiene. But perhaps the most important thing is to wear a mask when you go out in public, even outdoors.

“If everyone had a mask, we would dramatically cut the transmission,” says Sexton. (A recent Cambridge study suggests that if everyone wore a mask all the time, it could prevent a second wave of the virus from occurring in the next 18 months.)

“You just can’t get infected with this virus unless you inhale it or touch an infected surface and then touch your eyes, nose and mouth,” says Poland. “If you avoid breathing it and avoid touching and contaminating the surface and then touching your face, you can’t get infected, which is really powerful information.”

Beyond maintaining social distance and wearing a mask when you leave your home, “the only thing that will change or mitigate the severity of a second wait is when and if vaccines are available,” he adds.

“The best thing we can do right now is prevent infection, delay this as long as possible until a vaccine is available,” says Poland. “To do otherwise is ridiculous.”

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