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What does it mean that a disease is “endemic”?


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You may have heard of the term “endemic” used to describe diseases, which is often compared to the terms “epidemic” and “pandemic”.

Many health officials say COVID-19 is likely to go from pandemic to endemic in many countries. But what does this mean?

In a broader sense, the term “endemic” refers to an organism present in a particular area. According to the US Geological Survey, in ecology, it means a species that lives in only one geographic area, such as a plant or animal restricted to an island.

However, in a public health context, the term “endemic” refers to a disease that has a persistent presence or “normal” number of infected people in a given area, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The technical definition is a disease in a steady state. She is there all the time. It doesn’t actually cause an outbreak, it doesn’t go away,” said Dr. Christopher G. Gill, professor of global health at Boston University.

The concept, in turn, builds on the idea of ​​an “epidemic” disease — a disease with a higher-than-normal population infection rate,” said Gpsiamber de Souza, professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School. Healthcare. (An epidemic disease becomes an “epidemic” if it spreads to multiple countries or the world.)

De Souza said endemic status also depends on the impact of the disease on the population in a particular area. “This means that the population has enough immunity to teach them to live with this infection. And that’s when we don’t have mutations in the disease that disrupt daily life,” she said.

However, not every epidemic disease is endemic; It’s just that a lot is missing. “If there is an epidemic and you contain it and treat it successfully and you can bring it down to zero, you can prevent it from becoming an epidemic,” de Souza said. Examples include the 2005 H5N1 avian influenza and the 2002-2004 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak.

A variety of diseases have become endemic in the United States, including respiratory diseases such as influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), as well as many childhood illnesses.

Nearly three years after the pandemic began, many experts said “COVID-19” was or will soon become a pandemic in the United States, de Souza said, because most people have some immunity through vaccination or exposure to the disease.

However, the timing of this transmission may vary by expert as they assessed how low the infection and death rates were. “It’s not an exact science. We would not say that this particular day is the time when we move, ”she said. Meanwhile, levels of epidemic infection may persist in other parts of the world even if the disease is endemic in another region.

Experts warn that endemicity does not necessarily mean a less severe disease.

Similarly, being endemic does not mean the disease is no longer a public health problem, virologist and immunologist Matt Koshy said in a North Carolina State University publication.

“Smallpox was an endemic disease that consistently killed 1 out of every 3 people who contracted it,” he said.

Source: Living Science

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