COVID-19 will likely shift from pandemic to endemic — but what does that mean?

-Scientists predict that COVID-19 will become endemic over time.

-An endemic virus is constant in a population with largely predictable patterns.

-Endemic comes from the Greek word endēmos, which means ‘in population’.

-Another buzzword, ‘epidemic’, describes a disease concentrated in certain areas, experts explain.

-The Ebola virus that spread within three West African countries from 2014–2016 was an epidemic.

-Countries will enter an endemic phase of COVID-19 at different times, due to incompatible vaccination rates and other variables.

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

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

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

‘Outbreak’, ‘Epidemic’, ‘Pandemic’ and ‘Endemic’

First let’s recap the public health terms Australians have been increasingly using in conversation over the last 18 months. These words cover the lifecycle of disease and include “outbreak”, “epidemic”, “pandemic” and “endemic”.

An outbreak is a rise in disease cases over what is normally expected in a small and specific location generally over a short period of time. Foodborne diseases caused by Salmonella contamination provide frequent examples of this.

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