: The COVID-19 pandemic has been ravaging the world for three years, and despite hopes of a seasonal pattern, it shows no signs of abating. SARS-CoV-2 infections continue to rise, with new variants like XBB.1.16 emerging and contributing to the uptick in cases in various geolocations across the world. XBB.1.16 spawns like XBB.1.16.1, XBB.1.16.2, XBB.1.16.3, its third generations like FU.1 aka XBB.18.104.22.168 and FU.2 aka XBB.22.214.171.124 are also starting to gain predominance in circulation in certain geolocations. It is expected that the XBB.2.3 variant and its various sub-lineages will most like be causing the next onslaught after the XBB.1.6 wavelets.
Scientists now predict a future characterized by smaller, frequent waves or "wavelets" of mostly mild infections for the general population, propelled by an unyielding flow of new variants. However, all those in the vulnerable groups such as the aged, the obese, those with existing comorbidities, those who are immunocompromised and those with certain ‘genetic makeups’…will continue to be susceptible to both disease severity and also increased risk of mortality irrespective of booster or vaccine status although some 'experts' claim that the boosters reduce disease severity and risk of mortality for all.
We can say goodbye to the days of large, explosive COVID-19 waves and instead welcome the new era of the wavelets in some cases with either very short intervals or breaks unless off source a more interesting reassortant variant or completely new SARS-CoV-3 emerges…which is also very likely in terms of the current kinetics of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The current pandemic landscape has shifted to one where hospitals are no longer overwhelmed by massive surges but rather burdened by the post infection issues.
Countries will continue to experience a steady stream of smaller, less lethal waves. These wavelets differ from the annual circulation patterns of influenza and cold-causing coronaviruses and are unique by themselves. SARS-CoV-2 appears unlikely to settle into a flu-like rhythm anytime soon.
May researchers, experts and virologists are warning that COVID-19 onslaughts haven't slowed down in the last year, and they do not see what factors would cause it to do so at this point. It will be a continually circulating respiratory disease. It may be less seasonal than things epidemiologists are typically used to.
The XBB.1.16 variant, first identified in India, is a prime example of the virus's rapid evolution. This lineage has almost entirely replaced previous variants in the country. According to a recent Indian study covered in a COVID-19 News
report, only about 25.7 % of people infected with the XBB.1.16 variant will require hospitalization and off these only about 33.8 % will need supplemental oxygen.
Hence, we can see that it is mild compared to the Delta variant and is causing lesser deaths upon infections compared to earlier variants. But off course in terms of its long-term health complications, we are not aware of the changes or differences in terms of the damage that it can cause compared to previous variants.
The World Health Organization has designated XBB.1.16 a "variant of interest." Experts believe the impact of this variant will depend on each country's previous COVID-19 waves. The XBB.1.16 variant is spreading rapidly in the United States, now accounting for over 11% of cases. In Europe, however, the variant is less prevalent and spreading more slowly. It will be interesting to see how the XBB.1.16 variant plays out I these geolocations.
Thailand Medical News has a hypothesis that when a SARS-CoV-2 variant emerges in a particular geolocation, typically with intra-host genetic factors contributing to the evolution of that variant, the variant will likely cause more damage and increase risk for disease severity and increased risk of mortality when it spreads to other geolocations where the genetic makeups of the locals are much more different. The Delta variant proved this to a certain degree as it emerged in India but caused far more deaths and also increased hospitalizations for those in the United States, North America and Europe.
It is hard to predict to predict whether future wavelets would be more severe or not. While XBB.1.16 is not expected to cause so much problems, the new wavelets likely to be caused by the XBB.2.3 sub-lineages and spawns are predicted to be more devasting. This is based on unverified speculations that they can cause more damage to the T cells and are also more immune evasive and more transmissible.
Many countries are now facing multiple waves of infections each year due to the virus's rapid evolution. The spike protein in SARS-CoV-2, where most immunity-evading mutations occur, is evolving at double the rate of its counterpart in seasonal influenza and ten times as quickly as those in cold-causing coronaviruses. This swift mutation rate and short-lived human immunity are preventing SARS-CoV-2 from developing a seasonal circulation pattern.
The high frequency of COVID-19 waves or wavelets results in large numbers of infections. For instance, the United Kingdom experienced a 100% annual "attack rate" in the last year, with as many infections as residents. Experts predicts that this rate could stabilize at 50% annually, compared to 20% for influenza.
With the unprecedented high evolution rate of the present SARS-CoV-2 sub-lineages that are aggressively spawning mutations to evade all forms of immunity be it from previous infections or immunity induced by vaccines or boosters or even so-called hybrid immunity and even the last immunity conferred by the T cells, we can expect lots of COVID-19 waves or wavelets this year.
What is worrying however it that all these continuous waves or wavelets by the newly emerging sub-lineages causing breakthrough infections could have massive detrimental effects on the long-term health of all reinfected. We do not know what these breakthrough infections and reinfections can have on the immunity system of the host and also on its various other cellular systems and how much damage is being done to the human host.
All these SARS-CoV-2's constant fluctuations remain a challenge, and COVID-19's death toll still remains ten times higher than influenza. Hence all these waves or wavelets of infections and reinfections will still bring along worrying death rates.
As the world navigates this new normal, it is crucial to remain vigilant in the face of ever-changing variants and evolving circumstances. The era of the COVID-19 wavelet is here, and as scientists and researchers work tirelessly to understand and combat the virus, it is important for individuals and communities to adapt to this reality. By staying informed, following guidelines, and supporting public health efforts, all can contribute to mitigating the impact of these wavelets and ultimately move towards a more stable future.
Despite the challenges of living in the wavelet era, the global community has learned valuable lessons from the pandemic. The importance of robust healthcare systems, investment in scientific research, and collaboration between nations has become more evident than ever before. It is through these concerted efforts that authorities can hope to develop better strategies and tools to address the ongoing waves and any future pandemics.
Adapting to the wavelet era also means recognizing that the fight against COVID-19 is far from over. Public health measures such as mask-wearing, hand hygiene, and social distancing will remain crucial in minimizing the spread of the virus and keeping the wavelets manageable.
Furthermore, ongoing research and surveillance of new variants will be instrumental in understanding the virus's evolution and informing appropriate public health responses. Monitoring the effectiveness of existing vaccines and treatments against emerging strains will be vital in guiding the development of updated therapeutics and vaccines.
The psychological and social impacts of living in a world characterized by mini-waves of COVID-19 cannot be ignored. Mental health support and resources must be made accessible to individuals struggling with the uncertainty and stress brought on by the pandemic. Governments, businesses, and communities should work together to develop flexible and resilient approaches to navigating the economic and societal challenges posed by the wavelet era.
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