Endemic originates from the Greek word endēmos, which means ‘in population’.
An endemic virus is constant in a population with very predictable patterns. It describes a disease concentrated in certain areas.
The word endemic is regularly mentioned among public health leaders and experts as they discuss potential future scenarios. So, it’s crucial to define exactly what it would imply for COVID to become endemic.
Differences between an ‘Outbreak’, ‘Epidemic’, ‘Pandemic’ and ‘Endemic’
An outbreak is a rise in disease cases over what is generally expected in a small and specific location over a short period. A frequent example is the Foodborne diseases caused by Salmonella contamination.
Epidemics are outbreaks without tight geographical restrictions.
Pandemic is an epidemic which spreads across a lot of countries and many continents around the world. Examples are those caused by influenza A(H1N1) or Spanish Flu, HIV/AIDS, SARS-CoV-1, and Zika virus.
Viruses can disperse endemically in specific geographical regions, or globally. An example is the Ross River virus which circulates endemically in Australia and the Pacific island countries but can not be found in other regions of the world and the rhinoviruses which cause the common cold to circulate endemically around the world. And influenza is an endemic virus monitored for its epidemic and pandemic potential.
How does a pandemic transition to an endemic?
Take, for example, the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID is seen infecting human hosts with no prior immunity.
As regards the spread of the virus via the environment, the virus transmits better in cold, dry, crowded, close-contact, confined settings that have very poor ventilation.
Every virus or bacterial has its aspects, from the velocity of virus replication to drug resistance. The new COVID strains are communicated quickly and may result in different symptoms.
Viruses are more likely to become very endemic if they become harmonized to a local environment and/or have a continuous supply of accessible hosts. For COVID these would be hosts with low or no immunity.
How long will it take for COVID-19 to become an endemic disease?
Mathematical modelling provides an idea of likely COVID epidemic outcomes.
Most public health experts agree COVID is here to stay rather than likely to disappear like the pox, at least for a while. They foresee the number of infections becoming fairly consistent across years with possible seasonal trends and occasional smaller outbreaks.
Worldwide, the road from pandemic to endemic will be very problematic. In some countries, national, and state authorities are declaring openly futuristic plans to reopen businesses and also borders. The procedure for doing this will result in another nationwide epidemic of COVID. People will die and most country’s health systems will be challenged. Vaccination rates will protect a lot of individuals, but there are still those who would not or cannot get vaccinated. Herd immunity will play an important part in making sure we move towards an endemic COVID.
With time, scientists foresee that COVID will become more infectious among young people that have not been vaccinated or those without previous exposure to the virus. This is what arises as a result of common cold coronaviruses. Despite serial spikes in caseloads each season or instantly after the relaxation of economic, social, and travel restrictions, COVID will eventually become more manageable.
The rollout of booster vaccine shots each season will also create this path. Poor vaccine coverage could allow the virus to continue at an epidemic level for an extended period. In an area where immunity recedes quickly and there are no booster shots available, COVID would probably go from endemic back to epidemic.
The most important thing that should be done to help accomplish a stable level of endemic COVID is to get vaccinated and keep following the Coronavirus pandemic safety tips. By doing this we protect ourselves and the people around us.
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