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Local expert says virus that causes COVID-19 is here to stay

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As the world enters a third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, some are questioning whether the disease will ever go away.

UR Medicine infectious disease specialist Dr. Ann Falsey has an answer: She’s certain that the virus will never be completely eradicated.

“It's never going away,” Falsey said. “I very rarely am definitive, but it will not go away.”

She added that although the pandemic culture of mask-wearing and isolation may come to an end, the virus itself will stick around.

“It's tough to eradicate a respiratory virus,” Falsey said.

She said this is in part due to the virus's ability to quickly mutate. She also said antibodies produced by vaccines are unable to efficiently venture away from the lungs, and protect the nose and throat.

“Some of the antibody in your blood sort of seeps out into your nose but not enough to really prevent the virus from infecting your nose and throat,” she explained.

This is why so-called breakthrough infections occur, but are typically mild and similar to the common cold.

“(People say), ‘What do you mean I can still get sick with this virus?’ But you're not dying, you're not getting pneumonia, you're getting a cold.”

Falsey said she and her team are working on an intranasal vaccine that will help prevent the virus from replicating in the nose and throat areas.

Racquel Stephen is WXXI's health, equity and community reporter and producer. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of Rochester and a master's degree in broadcasting and digital journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.