What is the Endemicity Stage in Covid-19: According to WHO Chief Scientist Swaminathan , a disease reaches an endemic stage when a population learns to live with the conditions
Covid-19 Pandemic Endemicity Phase: As the healthcare authorities ready hospitals for an impending Covid-19 third wave, Chief Scientist of the World Health Organisation Dr. Soumya Swaminathan giving some ray of hope said that India might be entering some kind of stage of ‘endemicity’. The level of transmission she said will be normal to moderate and exponential growth and peaks that the country witnessed a few months ago are unlikely.
Swaminathan in her latest interaction also said that the situation in India will continue with ups and downs considering the size and heterogeneity of the population and their immunity status. Hence only the vulnerable population where there are low levels of vaccine coverage can see peaks and troughs for the next several months.
What is endemicity
According to Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, a disease reaches an endemic stage when a population learns to live with the conditions. It means its spread is limited to a particular area and its rate is predictable. Unlike an epidemic, it does not overwhelm a population, says Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that endemic “refers to the constant presence and/or usual prevalence of a disease or infectious agent in a population within a geographic area.”
What Delhi Health Minister said about Covid-19 pandemic nearing “endemic phase”
Just a month before Delhi reeled under the second Covid wave, Health Minister Satyendar Jain had said, “The pandemic phase is over in Delhi and it seems we are moving towards the endemic phase… Delhi had a swine flu outbreak 10 years ago but still, some cases are reported every year. Covid-19 is not going to end completely but we will have to learn to live with it. We should continue wearing masks and this has been the biggest learning over the last year”
However, from April 1, Delhi’s daily Covid-19 cases witnessed a steady climb, from 2,720 on April 1 to more than 10,000 positive cases in a day in 10 days. Throughout the month, the hospitals at the capital struggled for medical supplies, oxygen, and hospital beds, with fatalities touching a record high. Lockdown was imposed to control the situation.
Cases took a dive from 25,212 on May 1 to 946 on May 30, registering a steady decline through the month. The metro reported 39 new Covid cases on Tuesday and zero fatalities for the fifth consecutive day.
A PTI report said, experts like Dr. Suresh Kumar, medical director of Delhi government-run LNJP Hospital, Dr. Sanjeev K. Singh, Resident Medical Director, Amrita Hospitals in Faridabad has also opined that although zero cases is an unlikely figure as the virus keeps mutating but there will be few cases in the coming days. “As COVID-19 gradually becomes an endemic, likely in 12-24 months, it will probably stop being a statistic that is being watched on a daily basis. “ said Dr. Gauri Agarwal, IVF expert and founder of Seeds of Innocence.
How pandemics or epidemics end up being endemic and rarely leave
Every disease pathogen that has affected people over the last several decades stayed in some form or other as it is impossible to fully eradicate them. Pathogens like malaria that are as old as humanity still exert a heavy disease burden and so are epidemics like tuberculosis, measles, leprosy, and younger pathogens like Ebola virus, MERS, SARS, and recent SARS-CoV-2.
Even Plagues returned every decade, each time hitting vulnerable societies and taking its toll during at least six centuries. The only disease that has been eradicated through relentless mass vaccination campaigns is Smallpox.
What Covid-19 turning to an endemic means
According to immunologist Yonatan Grad, the optimistic view is enough people will gain immunity through vaccination or from natural infections and the pace of transmission will fall considerably. But with the emergency of new variants, especially the latest ‘Delta’ variant, acquiring ‘heard immunity’ mathematically seems impossible.