Is COVID-19 endemic yet?
Is COVID-19 endemic yet?

Is COVID-19 endemic yet?

Key takeaways

  • According to researchers, COVID-19 is likely to become endemic, rather than completely eradicated.
  • They predict that COVID-19 will eventually circulate less and in ways that are more predictable.
  • But we are still not there yet.

Throughout the pandemic, researchers have said it is unlikely we will completely eradicate COVID-19. Instead, they have stressed that the virus is likely to become endemic.

They hope that instead of uncontrolled transmission and increasing numbers of cases, we will reach a point where COVID-19 will circulate less and more predictably. For example, we typically know what to expect from each flu season. But are we still in an endemic state with COVID-19?

Experts say we still have a way to go.

“Endemic is where we can really start predicting what will happen,” Mackenzie Weise, MPH, CIC, Infection Prevention Clinical Program Manager at Wolters Kluwer, Health, told Verywell. “Right now, it’s extremely unpredictable. We do not know what next week brings at the moment.”

What does endemic mean?

An endemic disease is one that is always present in a given population or geographic area.

“Endemic largely refers to the constant presence and or usual occurrence of a disease or infectious agent in a given population within a particular area,” Weise said. “Something that has become extinct here in the United States may still be endemic in another geographic area around the world.”

Malaria is an example of a disease that remains endemic in many tropical and subtropical areas elsewhere, she explained, but transmission has been eliminated in the United States.

The endemic level of a disease does not necessarily mean the preferred level. It would be best if we did not have strains of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), seasonal flu or the common cold in circulation at all. But we do.

All of these examples are endemic in the United States. Although the number of cases varies from year to year, experts mostly know what to expect from these typically seasonal viruses. But even if a disease is endemic, it does not mean that it is less serious.

“Severe diseases can still be endemic,” Weise said. For example, cholera is a potentially serious intestinal infection endemic in about 50 countries.

Is COVID-19 endemic yet?

So have we moved yet from the crisis stage of a global pandemic to a situation where COVID-19 has become endemic? Verywell spoke with several experts to get their bids.

“Right now, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes all of this, is constantly changing,” Weise said. “It’s not genetically stable. There’s no way to predict what’s going on. It’s far from becoming endemic. To get to that point we would definitely have a lot more control and more ability to predict possible transmission.”

The resounding consensus is that we are not there yet. But we could stay that way eventually.

“I’ve read a lot of other experts, epidemiologists, public health people talking about this,” Bernadette M. Boden-Albala, DrPh, MPH, director and founding dean of the public health program at the University of California, told Verywell. “And I think we’re waiting with bated breath.”

Most experts are just watching and waiting to see which way COVID-19 takes next time.

“I would personally sit on the fence a little longer to see how this goes,” Scott Lillibridge, MD, director of emergency preparedness for International Medical Corpstold Verywell.

Is Omicron a Road to Endemicity?

In a study in International Journal of Infectious DiseasesResearchers noted that the Omicron variant, although highly transmissible, appears to cause less serious illness than other variants. The potential for less severe outcomes has got some experts to suggest that we may be moving in the direction of COVID-19 becoming an endemic disease.

But the experts we spoke to said there is a lot to consider. First, Omicron is no less serious for everyone. And the severity is not necessarily a factor when it comes to a disease being considered endemic or at baseline. But for infectious diseases, the rate of transmission comes into play.

If the reproduction rate is less than one – where on average one infected person infects one or no persons – then a disease is considered to be stable.

In a study in Journal of Medical VirologyResearchers in Denmark estimated Omicron’s reproduction rate to be 3.19 times greater than the Delta variant.

Right now, the Omicron variant is transmitting rapidly in the United States. With the increase after holidays in 2022, the average number of daily new cases is higher than it has been for any other wave during the entire pandemic.

High transmission can be a recipe for disaster in many ways, leading to even more unpredictability. “Because it transmits so much, whether mildly, we are still somehow feeding the virus’ ability to mutate further, become wiser, and learn to thrive,” Weise said.

Omicron does not have a ‘mild’ impact on society

Experts also warn against the use of the word “mild”. High case numbers do not have a mild impact on society. Plus, Omicron still presents the potential for serious illness in many people.

“Of course, Omicron may be less serious on average,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, MScDirector-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), said in a recent press briefing. “But the story that it is a mild disease is misleading, damages the overall response and costs more lives. Make no mistake, Omicron causes hospitalizations and deaths. And even the less serious cases are flooding health facilities. ”

A large number of Omicron cases have overwhelmed hospitals with patients. And it has caused staff shortages. Infected health workers have according to Beckers Hospital Review.

“Among the unvaccinated, it is still really a terrible disease,” Boden-Albala said. “And even among the vaccinated but not boosted, it hits hard.”

Weise added that people who are immunocompromised or who have underlying diseases may also still face a more serious course of the disease, especially if they are unvaccinated.

COVID-19 still takes a dramatic toll on society – so it’s far from stable. “Whether it’s in the form of death, whether it’s in the form of people being out sick and things like surgeries being reorganized – all of that would work more normally,” Boden-Albala said.

“The burden on our healthcare system affects patient care and patient safety across the board, up and beyond COVID-19 only,” Weise added. “There are a lot of other patient safety issues and concerns that are increasing and may not get the attention they deserve because of the COVID-19 response.”

Ultimately, due to high transmission and an overwhelming health care system, the United States and much of the rest of the world are still operating in a state of crisis.

What this means for you

Experts are cautiously optimistic that COVID-19 will eventually become endemic. But the COVID-19 transfer is currently high. To protect yourself from COVID-19, get fully vaccinated and receive your booster shot as recommended. Continue to wear a mask in public. These efforts mean that you are doing your part to help slow down the transmission.

How does COVID-19 become endemic?

Experts said they remain cautiously optimistic that increased immunity will help disrupt transmission chains.

“We hope there will be a downward trend,” Boden-Albala explained. “Between more and more people being boosted, between increased vaccination and between the number of people who have had Omicron and Delta – that we may be pushing the virus to become endemic.”

“I think we are well on our way to making this disease an endemic problem,” Lillibridge added.

The experts we spoke to agreed that continued mitigation efforts are the best path towards a future where we consider COVID-19 to be less of a threatening threat.

“COVID-19 will be endemic if we can be in a world where enough people are receiving vaccine-induced immune protection,” Weise said. “It will certainly significantly reduce the incidence of serious illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths, and certainly transmission in general.”

Boden-Albala stressed that masking, vaccination and boosting were the way forward for everyone.

When we reach an endemic state, then the goal will be to maintain a baseline. One lesson from the pandemic is that we need a more coherent worldwide approach to public health. “The evidence-based strategies that we know through science to control infectious diseases only work when they are standardized and fully implemented by the global health community,” Weise explained.

“We will need to intensify our surveillance of infectious diseases,” Lillibridge added. Improved testing measures can help quickly identify outbreaks, often called epidemics, as transmission increases. Better monitoring can quickly identify, sequence and monitor new variants, track their behavior and movement among populations, he explained.

And experts have some thoughts on what to leave on this path forward. “One of the biggest mistakes that would sabotage this work is anyone who decides to follow conspiracy or ‘internet science’ instead of listening, giving a chance to the experts who have dedicated so many years of their lives. to work to protect public health. ” said Weise.

The information in this article is current from the date stated, which means that more recent information may be available as you read this. For the latest updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news site.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.