In the wake of COVID-19 we have come across somany new terms such as Social distancing, Quarantine, Isolation and now a new term is in picture called HERD IMMUNITY. In this article we will see what does Herd Immunity mean and why this term is making rounds in the news papers and internet articles.
In simple terms Herd immunity is what happens when a significant portion of the population is immune to an infection which slows down or stops the spread of the infection. Herd immunity is not about protecting each individual person-itś really about preventing a widespread break of infection.
Herd immunity means that each person who does that contract the infection won’t be able to spread it to as many, if any other people. The more people in the group or herd that are immune to the infection the less easily the infection can spread through the population.
What Does Herd Immunity Mean || Herd Immunity Explained || Can COVID-19 Stop with Herd Immunity
To explain you in a more crisp format consider the following terms.
Immune person : A person who is immune to diseases, his immune system has the capability to fight back the disease
Non-Immune person : A person who is susceptible to diseases and can spread the infection to others.
Here when immune people are larger than non-immune people then there will be a break in the chain of infection spread.
It is important to note that herd immunity only works for infections that spread through person to person contact. Some infections spread only through contact, with infected surfaces, not people, so herd immunity is ineffective at preventing their spread.
For example you might contract a tetanus infection after stepping on a rusty old nail, you won’t be able to spread that infection but in the case of COVID 19 you will be spreading the disease from one person to another.
Depending on the disease there is a threshold for every infection depending on how contagious it is, Measles is a classic example of herd immunity. Before 1963 Measles affected 3-4 million Americans each year and killed between 400 and 500 people, once an effective measles vaccine was developed and a significant amount of population was vaccinated, the herd immunity threshold was met and in the year 2000 American government declared that measles has been eliminated from the United States.
Can COVID-19 Stop with Herd Immunity?
In the case of COVID-19 no one was immune to it when the disease first started to spread, the virus encountered no resistance and it spread from person to person quickly leading to major outbreaks like we have seen in Italy and New York, the more people who become immune to the virus the slower it will spread and fastre the outbreak will end.
Early estimates are that 70% of the population needs to be immune for herd immunity to be effective, but we still don’t know for sure. There are two ways to achieve herd immunity: one is by vaccination and the other is to get naturally by getting infected and defeating the virus by developing antibodies.
VACCINATION : Vaccination is a safe and effective way to achieve herd immunity as it does not require one to get infected with the virus and develop antibodies rather stop the disease before it enters the human body.
GETTING IMMUNE TO DISEASE : To develop immunity towards COVID-19 or SARS-COV-2 one needs to get infected by the virus and then develop antibodies naturally, but here the challenge is COVID-19 is very fatal and uncertain, many young people have faced serious illness towards the disease, research is still on about how actually COVID-19 spreads what are exact symptoms for the disease. Herd immunity for COVID-19 according to researchers iks a very bad idea as it may prove very dangerous.
What is the way forward?
Well, now we obviously know we should not catch COVID-19 to speed up Herd immunity but how long will it take things to go back to normal? John Hopkins university lays out a best option to avoid spread of COVID-19, if we are able to maintain the current physical distancing norms, then we can buy some time to achieve herd immunity or might get a vaccine till the infection affects more people. This requires all the people to cooperate with the norms set by governments.
The way forward is a vaccine and till then we need to maintain ourselves a safe distance and wash hands frequently and stay at home as music as possible.