More studies needed on how Covid-19 affects humans

Dr Siti Fairouz Ibrahim

KUCHING: More studies are needed to give better insight into the epidemiology of Covid-19 and how it will affect the population especially in the Malaysian context.

A microbiologist from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Dr Siti Fairouz Ibrahim said there was still insufficient data available to come up with a more accurate prediction on the epidemiological progression of Covid-19.

“In the meantime, it is in our best interest that Malaysians follow the safety and prevention measure guidelines as circulated by the Ministry of Health,” she said when contacted by New Sarawak Tribune.

Dr Siti said factors which could influence the eradication of Covid-19, which in turn would influence its endemicity, were vaccine coverage and public-health measures.

“Christopher Dye, an epidemiologist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom (UK), stated that while there is a continual risk of Covid-19 outbreaks in areas where it had been eliminated, herd immunity will come into play to stifle the possibility of a bigger outbreak,” she said.

She noted that an article in February this year from the Nature journal had asked over 100 immunologists, infectious-disease researchers, and virologists working on the coronavirus whether Covid-19 could be eradicated — with about 90 percent of them believing that it would become endemic.

“It will depend very much on the nature of immunity acquired by those who are vaccinated, those who have been infected, and also how the virus evolves,” she said.

She explained that Covid-19 is caused by SARS-CoV-2, which is a coronavirus. Coronavirus, along with other viruses, are known to cause common colds and other respiratory infections.

She said influenza is an example of a respiratory disease which is endemic in many parts of the world.

“Influenza can cause death especially in high-risk groups – for example, the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions. Currently, annual vaccines are available for prevention of endemic influenza.

“However, we must not forget our history; the influenza virus can also cause pandemic,” Dr Siti pointed out.

As with influenza, she said there was a possibility of a similar scenario happening for Covid-19.

“But we have to bear in mind that although both viruses are RNA viruses that can cause respiratory infections, they are altogether two different viruses,” she said.