By Jeyhun Aliyev and Burak Dag
ANKARA (AA) - Measures against the coronavirus outbreak should continue after it passes its peak and even after the infection is brought under control globally, according to a Turkish professor.
Dr. Fadile Yildiz Zeyrek, an expert in clinical microbiology at Harran University in Sanliurfa, southeastern Turkey, told Anadolu Agency it is important to ensure that the virus spread curve runs in horizontal direction for the effective use of health infrastructure and healthcare personnel, and avoiding their workload.
Noting that social isolation is very important, Zeyrek said reaching a peak in the number of cases would be seen once the drop in the number of new daily patients is registered.
"Social isolation after the peak point can be reduced gradually by looking at the course of the infection. It is being discussed nowadays that once mindful people, who did not encounter the virus due to isolation, rejoin society all of a sudden, it may cause forming the second wave of infection."
She also stressed that measures such as social distancing and hand hygiene should be continued for a long time.
"Scientists estimate that 60% -- while some sources say 80% -- of all societies will be infected with this virus," she said.
Zeyrek, who is also an executive board member of the Turkish Society of Microbiology, said that with the increase in the number of tests, real numbers of patients will be revealed more accurately.
"Epidemiologically, a patient with COVID-19 normally infects around 2.5 people. If this contagion rate decreases, that is, if this figure falls below 1, it is accepted that the epidemic will disappear."
She said in order to say that the pandemic is over, the direction of the "epidemiological spread curve of disease" must go down, the number of recoveries should increase, and the deaths toll along with the new cases should drop.
The professor also underlined that since the virus in new, there is not much information available on it yet.
"This is a SARS-CoV-2 virus belonging to the Beta-coronavirus family, which is found in animals but new among humans. Information on infection will be derived from experience over time. For this reason, it is not possible to answer many questions clearly, but estimations are made based on experiences."
Zeyrek said the health ministry in Turkey has made a call for the vaccine development studies to a number of universities and centers in the country, noting it will provide financial support for this purpose.
Yesim Tasova, a professor in the infectious diseases department of Cukurova University in Turkey’s southern Adana province, also shared her thoughts with Anadolu Agency.
Tasova, who is a member of the Health Ministry’s Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, said China is an important model for analyzing the pandemic.
She said that as with all outbreaks, the number of COVID-19 cases will increase first and reach a peak, after which there will be a decrease in the number of cases.
"The moment the pandemic reaches its peak, the number of confirmed cases will decease with a similar curve as it rose. Of course, it is crucial to observe this worldwide."
Referring to the Chinese example, Tasova underlined that although there are "no new cases" in China, the country is still taking precautions to prevent a "second wave of an outbreak" as well as preventing infected people entering the country from the outside.
"The slightest relaxation on the measures taken against the novel coronavirus would lead to repetition of the outbreak. Then, the whole world must continue to take strict measures against the pandemic."
She highlighted that an effective vaccine is a "big step" to prevent the pandemic, adding it is essential to keep implementing early diagnosis, early treatment and early isolation methods to halt the pandemic until an efficient vaccination is out.
Alpay Azap, a professor of infectious diseases and clinical microbiology at Ankara University in the Turkish capital, and a member of the Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, said that for ending the pandemic, it is needed to reach an “endemic or inter-pandemic period” when the number of infection cases are registered at a certain number and do not continue rising.
Azap said although there are different courses depending on the peculiarity of the pandemic, there are four stages of a pandemic in general: start, rise, peak and recession.
“While a slight increase in case numbers is observed at the beginning, the rapid increase period begins after the number reaches a critical threshold. After the number of cases reaches the highest level, they always remain high for a relatively short time, and then the recession period begins.”
He said as it was with the SARS outbreak, the decrease in coronavirus cases may result in the "complete disappearance" of the disease.
However, Azap said they do not much expect such a "disappearance" in the case of the coronavirus, adding experts expect the disease to "circulate continuously among a certain number of people" like a seasonal flu, noting that the period is called the "endemic" period.
“In some pandemics, more than one rise-drop period can be seen. Secondary or tertiary increase waves can be observed," he warned.
"If the disease continues to be seen a certain number of times, such as the flu, then it is a disease that can cause a pandemic again, and the period in between is called the inter-pandemic period."
Azap reiterated that after the epidemic passes its peak, people need to continue the protective measures they initially took.
"The formation of communal immunity along with the measures we take are the reasons the epidemic curve turns down from the peak and the cases decrease. If the measures are loosened, the epidemic curve may enter the period of increase again," he said.
The professor stressed that there are many clinical trials in the world that investigate how much the current medicines work in combating COVID-19 rather than the development of new drugs against the pandemic.
He said the work on this issue newly started in Turkey since there were not many patients in the country until recently.
"Some of the treatment studies are unique to our country, and some of them are jointly conducted with other centers around the world."
Azap underlined that the studies on vaccinations are also "problematic" in the world, adding more than 30 studies on vaccines are being conducted nowadays, noting that "the relationship between our immune system and the coronavirus is very complex".
"Since it is not fully understood what our body's response is to the virus, there are problems in imitating this response with the vaccine," he said.
He said Turkey has already begun work on a vaccine, noting it is being carried out jointly by different centers that have experience on this subject.
So far, the virus has claimed 277 lives in Turkey and registered cases have climbed to more than 15,600.
After originating in Wuhan last December, COVID-19 has spread to at least 180 countries and regions across the world, with its epicenter shifting to Europe.
The virus has killed at least 47,280 people and infected more than 939,400 globally, while above 195,000 have recovered from the disease, according to figures collated by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.