Epidemiologist Larry Brilliant said the coronavirus pandemic was the “most dangerous pandemic in our lifetime”. He warned the fatal disease was capable of “infecting 7.8 billion of our brothers and sisters” because humans do not have immunity.
He said: “That there is no human being in the world that has immunity as a result of having had it before.
“That means it’s capable of infecting 7.8 billion of our brothers and sisters.
“It’s the most dangerous pandemic in our lifetime.”
Mr Brilliant warned that without a vaccine, experts could not decrease the total number of cases – it would just “postpone” it.
He told Wired: “Slowing it down or flattening it, we’re not going to decrease the total number of cases, we’re going to postpone many cases, until we get a vaccine – which we will, because there’s nothing in the virology of this vaccine that makes me frightened that we won’t get a vaccine in 12 to 18 months.
“Eventually, we will get to the epidemiologist gold ring.”
“Because we don’t know. Maybe Mississippi is reporting no cases because it’s not looking. How would they know?
“Zimbabwe reports zero cases because they don’t have testing capability, not because they don’t have the virus.
“We need something that looks like a home pregnancy test, that you can do at home.”
From 1973 to 1976, Mr Brilliant was involved in the World Health Organization (WHO) smallpox eradication programme.
The deadly viral disease killed an estimated 300million people around the world.
The outbreak of the coronavirus has raised questions about a phenomenon known as “herd immunity” and whether it might play a role in how the pandemic progresses.
With the new coronavirus infection COVID-19 as more and more people become infected, there will be more people who recover and who are then immune to future infection.
Martin Hibberd, a professor of Emerging Infectious Disease at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “When about 70 percent of the population have been infected and recovered, the chances of outbreaks of the disease become much less because most people are resistant to infection.
“This is called herd immunity.”
With the new coronavirus outbreak, current evidence suggests that one infected person on average infects between two and three others.
This means that, if no other measures are taken, herd immunity would kick in when between 50 percent and 70 percent of a population is immune.