China reported no locally transmitted coronavirus cases Thursday for the first time since the outbreak emerged in December — but experts are warning the country to brace for another wave of the contagious bug.
Several epidemiologists said the patterns of past pandemics suggest that the country is only experiencing a temporary reprieve from the pathogen, Bloomberg reported.
“It’s going to keep burning. The virus is still out there,” Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told the outlet. “We expect it to leak back in from the rest of the world.”
Two influenza pandemics in 1889 and 1918 saw three waves of infections, with the later ones being more deadly than the first cases, the outlet reported.
“This coronavirus is more comparable to influenza,” said Ben Cowling, a professor of epidemiology at Hong Kong University. “It spreads too easily, and most parts of the world don’t have the ability like China to do containment and control to get rid of it.”
University of New South Wales professor Raina MacIntyre said only 1% of the country’s population was likely infected during the first wave, “leaving most people in China susceptible.”
“The global pandemic will not be contained until we have a vaccine, or most of the population is infected,” the biosecurity professor told the outlet.
China has seen more than 80,000 cases since December’s outbreak in Wuhan, while the virus has spread to at least 218,800 people worldwide, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.