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COVID-19 two years on: What have we learned and what is the future?

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The COVID-19 virus was first identified in late 20 The COVID-19 virus was first identified in late 2019, and quickly spread around the world

Since emerging in Wuhan in late 2019, SARS-CoV-2 spread worldwide. The Cook Islands in the South Pacific, one of the last outposts free from COVID-19, recorded its first case on 13 February 2022.1

Every Independent Nurse reader probably knows friends and relations who have developed COVID-19. But the psychological, emotional and financial impact touched even the uninfected, triggering in some people, mental health problems, including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.2,3 If previous pandemics and epidemics are anything to go by, for some this distress will herald chronic longer-term mental health problems.2 So, two years on from the first UK lockdown, what have we learnt?

The clinical toll

Firstly, not everyone infected with SARS-CoV-2 develops COVID-19: the infection is asymptomatic in about 40% of people.4 (Bear in mind that most of the studies discussed in this feature were performed pre-omicron variant.) Pre-existing immunity to other coronaviruses, which cause between 10% and 15% of common colds, may help explain why some people exposed to SARS-CoV-2 remain uninfected while others develop severe COVID-19.5,6 In addition, the immune response to other coronaviruses may clear subclinical infection with SARS-CoV-2 (an abortive infection).6

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