There are seven coronaviruses known to infect people and four of them causing common respiratory infections are seasonal. But it is yet to know about SARS-CoV-2, which is causing the current pandemic.
A new study by University of Michigan School of Public Health researchers showed that four out of the seven known corona viruses are sharply seasonal and transmit just like influenza.
Though it is not yet confirmed that the new virus would also behave similarly, the scientists feel that the findings could help investigators and healthcare workers.
“Even though the seasonal coronaviruses found in Michigan are related to SARS-CoV-2, we do not know whether that virus will behave like the seasonal coronaviruses,” said Arnold Monto, the Thomas Francis Collegiate Professor of Epidemiology at the U-M School of Public Health.
“Only time will tell if SARS-CoV-2 will become a continuing presence in the respiratory infection landscape, continue with limited circulation as with MERS, or like SARS, disappear from humans altogether.”
The coronaviruses have long been recognized as human respiratory pathogens and human coronaviruses have historically been detected in mild respiratory illnesses. However, animal coronaviruses spill over to humans and they can cause severe disease. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002 and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in 2012 both emerged when a coronavirus jumped from an animal to people. The COVID-19 pandemic is believed to have started in the same way.
For the last 10 years, between 890 to 1,441 individuals from several hundred households participated in the study. The continuing study is now tracking the occurrence of SARS-CoV-2 and its potential presence in Michigan households.
The researchers found the coronaviruses studied are sharply seasonal in Michigan and appear, based on serial interval and secondary infection risk, to have similar transmission potential to that of the influenza A (H3N2) virus in the study population. They say the results are not indicative of how SARS-CoV-2 will behave.