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In the News From Pandemic to Endemic – Part I

Written by Lisa Jillanza

For more than two years now, we have been living in a world shattered by a global pandemic. We have lived in a time of masks, isolation, shutdowns, quarantines, vaccines, disease, and unfortunately death.

But at what point do we shift from a pandemic to an endemic? How will we know when the pandemic is officially “over”?

In this two-part article, we hope to answer some of those questions and give you more of an insight into what happens next after these long, scary, confusing years.

First, we need to define a few key words that we have all heard in conversation over the past 2 years.

These words cover the lifecycle of a 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.” 

Epidemics are “essentially outbreaks without tight geographical restrictions. The Ebola Virus that spread within three West African countries from 2014–2016 was an epidemic.” 

A pandemic is an “epidemic that spreads across many countries and many continents around the world. Examples include those caused by influenza A(H1N1) or “Spanish Flu” in 1918, HIV/AIDS, SARS CoV-1 and Zika Virus.” 

The "normal circulation of a virus in a specified location over time describes an endemic virus.” The word “endemic” comes from the Greek endēmos, which means “in population”. An endemic virus is relatively constant in a population with largely predictable patterns.