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Sight Magazine – Essay: COVID will likely go from pandemic to endemic

By on September 22, 2021 0

Most people wonder when and how the COVID pandemic will end and there are still no easy answers.

The word “endemic” is regularly mentioned, especially among leaders and experts in public health as they discuss potential future scenarios. So it’s important to define exactly what would mean COVID is rampant.

Health workers work inside a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination clinic set up for residents of surrounding public housing towers in the suburb of Redfern, where authorities are working to contain an emerging cluster of cases, as the widespread lockdown continues in Sydney, Australia on September 17. PHOTO: Reuters / Loren Elliott

Scientists predict that COVID will become endemic over time, but there will always be sporadic outbreaks where it gets out of hand. The transition from pandemic to endemic will likely play out differently in different places around the world.

“Outbreak”, “Epidemic”, “Pandemic” and “Endemic”
Let’s first recap the public health terms Australians have increasingly used in conversations over the past 18 months. These words cover the life cycle of the disease and include “epidemic”, “epidemic”, “pandemic” and “endemic”.

“Finally, the normal circulation of a virus in a specific location over time describes an endemic virus. word ‘endemic’ comes from the Greek endēmos, which means “in population”. An endemic virus is relatively constant in a population with largely predictable patterns. “

An outbreak is an increase in the number of cases of illness over what is normally expected in a small and specific place, usually over a short period of time. Foodborne illnesses caused by Salmonella contamination give frequent examples.

Epidemics are essentially epidemics without the strict geographic restrictions. The Ebola virus which spread to three West African countries between 2014 and 2016 was an epidemic.

A pandemic is an epidemic that spreads across many countries and many continents around the world. Examples include those caused by influenza A (H1N1) or “Spanish flu” in 1918, HIV / AIDS, SARS-CoV-1 and Zika virus.

Finally, the normal circulation of a virus in a determined place over time describes an endemic virus. The word “Endemic” comes from the Greek endēmos, which means “in population”. An endemic virus is relatively constant in a population with largely predictable patterns.

Viruses can circulate endemically in specific geographic regions or around the world. Ross River virus circulates endemically in Australia and Pacific island countries, but is not found in other parts of the world. Meanwhile, the rhinoviruses that cause the common cold are endemic to the world. And influenza is an endemic virus that we monitor for its epidemic and pandemic potential.

What does the usual path from pandemic to endemic look like?
Over time and thanks to public health efforts from mask-wearing to vaccination, the pandemic could disappear as smallpox and polio did – or it could gradually become endemic.

Host, environmental and virus factors combine to explain why some viruses are endemic while others are epidemic.

When we look at the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID, we see that it infects human hosts without prior immunity.



From an environmental standpoint, the virus transmits best in cold, dry, crowded, close contact and confined environments with poor ventilation.

Each virus has its own characteristics, from the speed of virus replication to drug resistance. New strains of COVID are transmitted faster and cause different symptoms.

Viruses are more likely to become endemic if they adapt to a local environment and / or have a continuous supply of susceptible hosts. For COVID, these would be hosts with little or no immunity.

How long will it take for COVID-19 to become an endemic disease?
Scientific Mathematics modeling give an idea of ​​the probable COVID epidemic results.

Most public health experts today to agree COVID is here to stay rather than disappearing like smallpox, at least for a while. They expect the number of infections to become fairly constant over the years with possible seasonal trends and occasional smaller outbreaks.

Globally, the road from pandemic to endemic will be difficult. In Australia, our national and state leaders are announcing future plans to reopen businesses and possibly borders. This process will result in the second national outbreak of COVID. People will die and our health systems will be challenged. Vaccination rates will protect many, but there are still those who will not or cannot get vaccinated. Collective immunity (from vaccination or infection) will play a key role in ensuring that we are heading towards endemic COVID.

Over time, scientists to predict COVID will become more prevalent among unvaccinated youth or those who have not been previously exposed to the virus. This is what happens with cold coronavirus. Despite periodic spikes in the number of cases each season or immediately after the relaxation of economic, social and travel restrictions, COVID will eventually become more manageable.

It won’t be the same everywhere
Countries will not enter an endemic phase at the same time due to varying factors related to host, environment and virus, including vaccination rates. The availability and deployment of booster vaccine injections every year or every season will also shape this path. Poor vaccination coverage could allow the virus to maintain itself at an epidemic level for longer. In a place where immunity is rapidly waning and there are no boosters available, COVID could go from endemic to epidemic.

Once we see a stable level of SARS-CoV-2 transmission indicating a new “baseline” of COVID, we will know the pandemic is over and the virus is endemic. This will likely include minor seasonal trends as we are now seeing with the flu.

The most important thing we can do to help reach a safe level of endemic COVID is to get vaccinated and continue to adhere to safe practices for COVID. By doing this, we protect ourselves, those around us, and move forward together towards an endemic phase of the virus. If we don’t work together, things could get worse very quickly and prolong the end of the pandemic.The conversation

Lara herrero is a leader in virology and infectious disease research at Griffith University and Eugene Madzokere is a doctoral student in virology at Griffith University. This article is republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read it original article.


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