This is a thought experiment, but everywhere I've read seems to say that colds ALWAYS come from someone else. There's no mention of a cold arising in someone without it coming from another infected being.

So my question is, if everyone in the world stayed out of physical contact and air space with everyone else for 2 weeks (or until every cold virus would have completely disappeared), would all variations of the cold virus then be extinct leading to a world without colds?

Or is there somewhere else that colds can arise from?

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    $\begingroup$ @rg255 I disagree that this is not of interest to biologists. If eradication of other diseases can be done, then it is perfectly valid to theorise about the eradication of diseases such as the common cold. $\endgroup$
    – March Ho
    Jan 5, 2016 at 5:23

1 Answer 1


You'd think there would be numbers of papers on this. I have two references but they're not great. The answer is not really. Many people carry cold viruses asymptomatically. This can be either a natural immunity, or that their body has beaten it down but not entirely eliminated it. Cold viruses do not survive long outside of the body as you stated. The only way they've made it this far is some survive inside the body until they are spread to other people. In essence we are the reservoir. So you could isolate everyone for two weeks, but that won't cause a problem for the viruses that are just tagging along. There may be other reservoir animals as well for many of the viruses. But even those that only affect and are carried by humans would survive.

The group of cold viruses is just too varied and different to eliminate them. Also the cost of such an effort would not really be justifiable given the typically mild symptoms.

Natural Reservoir


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