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Will COVID-19 Likely Become Endemic in the Next Several Years? Find Out What Experts Say!

Although COVID-19 cases continue to decrease and more people receive their vaccines, the coronavirus is not likely to go away anytime soon, according to health officials.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the infectious disease expert, dismissed the idea that COVID-19 would be eliminated in the next several years at a webinar hosted by the think tank Chatham House back in November 2020.

We need to plan that this is something we may need to maintain control over chronically. It may be something that becomes endemic, that we have to just be careful about, -- Dr. Fauci said.

What does endemic mean? – The  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines endemic as the “constant presence and/or usual prevalence” of a disease within a population in a certain geographic area.

According to Dr. Donald Burke, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, an endemic disease spreads at a baseline level every year without causing major disruption to people’s lives.

Things that are endemic are present for long periods of time without interruption, continuously circulating in the population, like the common colds, Dr. Burke said.

Dr. Pritish Tosh, an infectious diseases physician and researcher at Mayo Clinic, explained that a disease can be considered endemic in one country but can be deemed an outbreak or epidemic in another country.

How do you differentiate an epidemic and an endemic disease? – An epidemic is a sudden increase of a disease above what is normally expected among the population in a certain area, according to Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

Epidemics aren't just caused by diseases that result from viruses or bacteria; CDC says. For example, diabetes and obesity exist in large enough proportions in the U.S. to be considered epidemics. Similarly, a sudden increase in addiction to opioids over the past several years is accurately called an “opioid epidemic.”

The part of the word “epi” means "to be upon," Dr. Burke said, and “demic” comes from “demos,” which means "people."

Epidemic means something that comes out and is among the people,” he said. Things that are epidemic are things that are unusual that are not there and then appear.

Endemic means "something that's within the people," Dr. Burke added. Many epidemics have turned into endemics.

However, an endemic disease does not necessarily mean that it will exist forever.

What are considered endemic diseases? – The four common cold coronaviruses, which are considered cousins of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, are considered endemic in most parts of the world, including the U.S., Dr. Burke said.

We don’t notice them,” he said. “They’re transmitted, they’re constant.

Many childhood diseases also are endemic, he said. The measles, for example, used to be endemic in the U.S.

Will COVID-19 will likely become endemic?

It appears as though this virus is likely to remain endemic in populations at least for several years, possibly indefinitely, -- Dr. Tosh said.

According to Emory University and Penn State University scientists, that the virus could join the ranks of mild, cold-causing human coronavirus in the long run. If the novel coronavirus continues to circulate in the general populace and most people are exposed to it from child, it could then be added to the list of common colds. 

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