Covid-19 Will Stalk World for 'Long Time': World Health Official

Measures to detect and contain the coronavirus are only hope until a vaccine is ready, says expert, as U.S. missed early shot at containing the virus.

The world will have to get used to the new coronavirus and the sometimes deadly disease it causes, Covid-19, until a vaccine is created, said a top world health official on Sunday.

"We're not so sure that it will come in waves in the way that influenza does. We think it is going to be a virus that stalks the human race for quite a long time to come until we can all have a vaccine that will protect us and that there will be small outbreaks that will emerge sporadically and they will break through our defenses," said World Health Organization Special Envoy Dr. David Nabarro on Sunday in an interview on NBC News' "Meet the Press."

Several companies -- including Cambridge, Mass.-based Moderna  (MRNA) - Get Report -- are working on a potential vaccine for the novel coronavirus, but none is expect before a year or longer. Other companies are testing possible therapies, such as Gilead  (GILD) - Get Report , which is studying use of its drug remdesivir, and Japan's Fujifilm  (FUJIY) , which saw apparent high success with its flu drug favipiravir, but those are still under study. Japanese company Takeda  (TAK) - Get Report as well as New York-based Regeneron  (REGN) - Get Report and Emergent BioSolutions  (EBS) - Get Report of Maryland are also working on antibody and plasma-type therapies.

But so far no one therapy has been identified for treating Covid-19, as hospitals in hot spots throughout the U.S. have been hit hard by the disease that can cause a myriad of symptoms, including deadly lower respiratory complications. Caring for those most in need is a resource-heavy endeavor that puts a strain on hospitals that have lacked life-saving equipment and protective gear.  

"So the key for this particular virus is that every community has a kind of defensive shield, can pick up cases as soon as they appear, isolate them and stop outbreaks from developing," said Nabarro, according to a transcript of the program. "It is going to be necessary for every single country to have that capacity. And so we’re actually encouraging countries to put that in place now, and that will facilitate releasing lockdowns and prevent further massive outbreaks."

The U.S., which is often touted as having the most advanced health care in the world, largely dropped the ball on that effort before mid-March, failing to adequately test and warn citizens of the outbreak. As late as the first week in March, the severity of the outbreak was still down played and the number of cases still largely under-detected. This was despite earlier warnings by world health officials and witnessing what happened earlier in China, where the virus originated

Places such as Taiwan and Singapore, however, acted rapidly to stave off the kinds of disasters that have hit the U.S., Europe and elsewhere. 

As of Sunday, the U.S. became the hardest hit country for the outbreak, recording more than 550,000 known infections and over 21,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins map of the pandemic. So far, nearly 2.7 million Americans have been tested for the disease, as efforts to boost testing finally took off over the past several weeks -- several months after the outbreak first occurred late last year in China. It's still believed, however, that a large number of those infected in the U.S. have not been detected and accounted for.

A New York Times article over the weekend shed light on behind-the-scenes information that was available to U.S. officials, including President Donald Trump, about the magnitude and likely damage of the disease early on.

"I can't say who in the administration knew what and when, but I would say that that article reinforces what we've heard along the way, which is that many in the administration were very worried about this as early as January and February. And that seems pretty clear now," said Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security at John Hopkins University, in an interview Sunday with Fox News' Chris Wallace, according to a transcript. 

"And I’d also say that if we had acted on some of those (warnings) earlier, we would be in a much better position in terms of diagnostics and possibly masks and personal protective equipment and getting our hospitals ready."