A Cure Or Vaccine For The Novel Coronavirus Is Probably Not Coming Anytime Soon

  • There is currently no cure for the novel coronavirus, a.k.a. COVID-19.
  • It could take researchers up to two years to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus.
  • Until then, the best way to treat the novel coronavirus is by addressing the symptoms.

As cases of COVID-19 continue to be diagnosed worldwide, many are wondering: Will there be a cure or vaccine for the novel coronavirus?

Unfortunately, right now, there is no known cure for the novel coronavirus. As WHO points out, COVID-19 is caused by a virus, not a bacteria, so you can’t use an antibiotic to treat it like you would for a bacterial infection.

It’s particularly difficult to “cure” a virus, according to Peter Kolchinsky, who holds a PhD in virology from Harvard University. Viruses are also all drastically different from one another, so it’s unlikely that an anti-viral medication developed for one virus can be used to treat another.

Still, researchers are hard at work trying to determine the best course of action toward a cure—whether that’s a form of treatment or a future vaccine. Here’s what you need to know.

So if there’s no cure…how do you treat coronavirus?

While pharmaceutical companies are testing certain drugs against COVID-19, according to Kolchinsky, for now, the best way to treat the virus is by treating the symptoms.

That means ensuring the patient is getting enough fluids, reducing a fever through medication (like acetaminophen), and providing a respirator if a patient is having trouble breathing, per the CDC.

Will there be a vaccine for novel coronavirus?

The short answer Kolchinsky says, is likely yes…but it will take time. He explains that on average, researchers need one-and-a-half to two years to develop a new vaccine. Part of the reason it takes so long is because scientists have to a) make sure the vaccine is safe, and b) figure out how to manufacture it on a large scale. Rushing a vaccine could potentially do more harm than good. (For example, if the shot isn’t properly tested in human populations, it could cause unwanted side effects, or be less effective than necessary.) But Kolchinsky does note that “the drug industry’s entire toolkit is being applied to this problem.”

Until then, though, you can still help flatten the curve and stop the spread of the coronavirus by continuing to follow the CDC’s guidelines for prevention. Washing your hands (with soap and water and for at least 20 seconds), avoiding touching your face, and not attending or cancelling gatherings of more than 50 people are all important steps to helping to limit this outbreak.

Remind me what is the mortality rate of COVID-19 is right now?

At a news conference last week, WHO officials stated that “globally, about 3.4 percent of reported COVID-19 cases have died,” according to Reuters.

But there are a couple of reasons why WHO is not referring to this statistic as a “mortality rate” or “death rate.” In order to calculate a mortality rate, scientists have to know exactly how many people were infected, and unless we have widespread testing, which is still weeks away in the U.S., there’s a chance the true mortality rate won’t be known for a while, explainsKolchinsky. Plus, the mortality rate for vulnerable populations is expected to be much higher than the estimate above.

Okay, so how long does coronavirus last, and how will you know when it’s gone?

It can take up to 14 days after you’re exposed for coronavirus symptoms to appear, per CDC guidelines. For most people who are infected with the virus, these symptoms—fever, cough, shortness of breath—are mild, and how long it takes you to recover from the illness is really dependent on the health of the individual.

Like most diseases, it’s pretty a good sign that your body is beating the coronavirus if your symptoms start to lessen. Per the CDC’s guidelines for in-home isolation, the decision to end such a protocol should be made on a case-by-case basis and with the advice of a medical professional. The organization now also suggests that a patient not leave in-home isolation until two coronavirus tests that were taken at least 24 hours apart come back negative.

How long will you be contagious if you contract coronavirus?

There are many aspects of this disease that experts are still trying to work out, including how quickly someone becomes contagious after being infected. According to the CDC, symptoms may appear two to 14 days after infection with SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The CDC guidelines still state that people are likely most contagious when their symptoms are the worst, but the site also states scientists are continuing to learn more about this disease and new research suggests that people may be contagious before they start experiencing symptoms.

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