A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

A man covers his mouth and nose with his T-shirt as he leans in closely to another man speaking and showing something on his phone, in Vancouver, on Sunday, May 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
A woman rides a bicycle past a house with the message ‘Thank you for fighting COVID-19’ hung in the window, in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, May 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

As British Columbians look ahead to summer with the hope that health officials will feel comfortable lifting more social contact restrictions, health officials will be keeping a close eye on COVID-19 and the virus’s inevitable resurgence.

Dubbed “the second wave,” a return or resurgence of a virus as contagious as the novel coronavirus is imminent, health officials around the world have warned, based on other historic pandemics, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome – or SARS – in 2002, or the H2N2 pandemic in 1957, as well as the H1N1 influenza in 2009.

The deadly 1918 influenza, also known as the Spanish flu, returned in three separate waves in some countries – through spring, summer and fall – according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here in B.C., provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has motioned that British Columbians should prepare that this could be the case with COVID-19, a respiratory-based virus that currently has no vaccine or cure.

ALSO READ: Gaining herd immunity through COVID-19 transmissions ‘ineffective’

During a news conference on Tuesday (May 21), Henry pointed to the ongoing situation in South Korea, where one person inadvertently went to a number of nightclubs while unknowingly infected and spread it to a couple hundred people. She explained that B.C.’s “careful and cautious” reopening plan has been curated with avoiding such a spread at top of mind.

“If we look at the modelling of what we’ve seen in other places and here in B.C. there is a potential for it to start transmitting quite rapidly,” Henry said.

“We’ve seen that in other places where you get rapid increases in numbers [and] people getting infected in short periods of time.”

But as much as health officials work to flatten the curve, relying on the adherence of British Columbians, there is seasonality to respiratory viruses that may not be avoidable due to climatic conditions – in other words, the return of colder weather – starting in the fall.

“We know that influenza fades away in March, usually or sometimes April here in the northern hemisphere… but we know it comes back in the following fall,” Henry explained. “And we know that has been the pattern we’ve seen with other coronaviruses, so chances are we are going to see that with this coronavirus, as well.”

ALSO READ: Testing wastewater could give early warning of second wave of COVID-19

In the past 17 weeks, since the virus touched down in B.C., the province has morphed its testing strategy from focusing solely on outbreaks and those most vulnerable to seeing serious health impacts of the virus to opening up testing to anyone who shows symptoms in line with the disease.

Moving into the summer, contact tracing will play a big role in keeping case counts low – and health authorities have ramped up their staffing to assist. Henry confirmed that “several hundreds” of people are currently working on these teams in B.C.

ALSO READ: Do you think you have COVID-19? Here is what to do next

When someone tests positive for COVID-19, health-care personnel will work with the individual to recall anyone or place they’ve had contact with in the previous days when they may have been unknowingly infectious, also called the incubation period. Then, those staff reach out to as many people who could have contracted the virus to make them aware and watch for symptoms.

Contact tracing is a process used around the world and what gives public health departments “that fighting chance” to stop the chains of transmission, Henry said.

In the meantime, the efforts made now to keep transmission low could make all the difference in how widespread the potential second wave will be, Henry said.

“I think it is important for us to maintain the lid on the numbers of cases that we are seeing through the summer so that we are not starting off with a lot of spread in our community… but also to have the testing, the contact tracing, and all of those things that we know are important to have in place come the fall so we are able to manage this without overwhelming our healthcare system.”


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Group rescued unharmed after attempting to tube Lakelse River

Terrace Search and Rescue brought in helicopter to conduct search

Police investigate July 2 homicide in Houston

Man succumbed to injuries at Pearson Road residence

Terrace couple awarded by Governor General for volunteer work

Ron and Mavis Ramsey recognized for founding society that covers medical expenses

Skeena Sawmills in Terrace inks fibre deals with Kitselas Forestry and Kalum Ventures

Sawmill set to purchase around 45,000 cubic metres of fibre per year

Skeena Sawmills in Terrace reach labour agreement with local United Steelworkers union

The four and a half year long deal was ratified on May 19, 2020 and is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2020

B.C. accommodators need phone lines to light up as in-province travel given green light

Travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have decimated the tourism and hospitality industries

B.C. extends income assistance exemption for COVID-19

Provincial program to match Ottawa’s CERB, student pay

Broadway veteran Nick Cordero dies from coronavirus complications

During Cordero’s hospitalization, Kloots sent him daily videos of her and their 1-year-old son, Elvis,

Northern communities welcome tourists as province opens to in-B.C. travellers

Officials have asked British Columbians to be careful as they travel this summer

300 Cache Creek residents on evacuation alert due to flood risk as river rises

Heavy rainfall on Canada Day has river rising steadily, threatening 175 properties

First glimpse of Canada’s true COVID-19 infection rate expected mid-July

At least 105,000 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19 since the coronavirus was identified

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

Most Read