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The severity of COVID-19 will likely decrease over time, study finds

Exposure to the virus and vaccines should benefit consumers’ immunity long-term

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A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Utah explored whether or not COVID-19 will eventually become less dangerous to consumers’ health. 

The team’s work showed that exposure to the virus, whether by contracting it or by getting vaccinated, may eventually make the virus a seasonal issue. They explained that the severity of infections will likely decline as consumers’ immune systems get used to the virus. However, it’s important to be aware of some lingering potential risks

“This shows a possible future that has not yet been fully addressed,” said researcher Fred Adler, Ph.D. “Over the next decade, the severity of COVID-19 may decrease as populations collectively develop immunity.” 

What will the future look like?

To understand what COVID-19 will look like moving forward, the researchers created predictive mathematical models that looked at the body’s immune response from several different angles. This included kids’ response to the virus versus adults’ response, overall exposure to the virus, and protective measures like wearing masks, social distancing, and vaccinations.

Based on those factors, the researchers found that the severity of infections is likely to decrease over time. They explained that adults who were either vaccinated or infected with the virus are likely to have a mild response if re-exposed. Kids who come into contact with the virus are also more likely to have a less severe reaction because of the strength of their immune systems.

“In the beginning of the pandemic, no one had seen the virus before,” Dr. Adler said. “Our immune system was not prepared.” 

Moving forward, the team hopes to keep these models as current as possible, including information on new variants of the virus. 

“Our next step is comparing our model predictions with the most current disease data to assess which way the pandemic is going as it is happening,” Dr. Adler said. “Do things look like they’re heading in a bad or good direction? Is the proportion of mild cases increasing? Knowing that might affect choices we make as a society.”

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