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Experts at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota recently published a report to cover key information about the current pandemic, address issues that need to be more broadly publicized and provide recommendations for pandemic scenarios going forward.

The report, published April 30, compares the current pandemic to previous influenza pandemics, drawing conclusions on what we may expect for the future.

Below are a few takeaways:

  • The behavior of other serious coronaviruses like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) are different from that of COVID-19. Because of the large differences, these pathogens don't provide a useful model for predicting what will occur in the current pandemic.
  • The best comparative model for COVID-19 is pandemic influenza. Both types of pandemics have been caused by novel viruses spread through respiratory droplets, often due to asymptomatic carriers. Since 1900, there have been four global influenza pandemics--in 1918-19, 1957, 1968 and 2009-2010.
  • A key difference between COVID-19 and influenza is that COVID-19 appears to spread more easily than the flu because of a longer incubation period and more asymptomatic spread.
  • Using recent flu pandemics as an example, it is likely that our current outbreak will last 18-24 months.
  • The current pandemic will likely not be halted until 60-70% of the population is immune.

Additionally, the report provides important recommendations:

  • States, territories and tribal health authorities should plan for a worst-case scenario in which there is no immediate vaccine availability or herd immunity. This could mean a similar picture to the 1918-1919 pandemic — a larger wave later this year and one or more smaller subsequent waves next year. These waves will require reinstitution of mitigation measures similar to the ones we have now.
  • Government and healthcare agencies should develop strategies to protect healthcare workers from upcoming waves of disease incidence.
  • Communication from government officials should include the concept that this pandemic will not be over soon and that people should prepare for the possibility of period resurgences over the next two years.

"Our goal is to help planners envision some of the situations that might present themselves later this year or next year so that they can take key steps now, while there's still time," CIDRAP Director Michael T. Osterholm, Ph.D., M.P.H. writes in the report.

"Our hope is that our effort can help you plan more effectively and understand the many aspects of this pandemic more clearly — and for you and your family, friends and colleagues to be safer."

Read the full CIDRAP report.

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