First, it was an epidemic. Now it is a pandemic. Now comes word that COVID may very well achieve endemic status. More and more experts and health officials worldwide are warning that even with vaccinations being administered, COVID may very well be heading towards endemic status.
The term endemic refers to an infection that maintains a constant presence at a baseline level, without external inputs, usually within a geographic area.
Several experts in the field of medicine and diseases, such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the CEO of Moderna Stephanie Bancel, and Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, have stated in the last few weeks that the coronavirus may be here for good.
According to data compiled in a study by John Hopkins University, an estimated 107 million people worldwide to date have contracted the virus, with another estimated 2.36 million dying. In October, David Heymann, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology, warned the public that, at that time, the coronavirus looked to be on a steady course to becoming endemic.
Speaking at a think tank webinar for Chatham House, Heymann said: “I think if you speak with most epidemiologists and most public health workers, they would say today that they believe this disease will become endemic—at least in the short term and more than likely the long term.”
Another expert, Dr. Jeremy Farrar, stated that COVID-19 is a human infection and is endemic. He warned that with so many cases of individuals infected with the virus worldwide, the virus has and will continue to mutate. He also offers that we need to learn lessons from 2020 to take control. Every day counts.
Heymann reminds that with past viruses, we, as a people, have learned to live with them—citing tuberculosis, HIV, and four coronaviruses that cause the common cold that are already endemic in our lives.
He reminds us that we have learned to live with each one of these endemic infections through risk assessment, diagnosis, and therapeutics. We have learned, through the years, to balance our lives and endure these endemic viruses.
Is it now a case of learning to live with COVID-19 as we have other viruses in the past?