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Too soon to call COVID-19 endemic, experts say

By Darian Benson, Side Effects Public Media | Published on in Education, Health, Science
Indiana University Fairbanks School of Public Health’s Shandy Dearth said right now it is too early to talk about COVID-19 being endemic. (Justin Hicks/IPB News)

After a year and a half of the COVID-19 pandemic, public health experts believe we’re still a way off from endemic.

Endemic is a term used for a disease that is normally seen in a population, said Shandy Dearth from the Indiana University Fairbanks School of Public Health. A pandemic is an epidemic of an infectious disease spread internationally.

Dearth said endemic viruses are a lower level of concern— much like norovirus or the seasonal flu.

“It’s kind of a little more controlled,” Death said. “You know how to treat it, you know how to deal with it, and it’s not causing a huge surge on your health care system.”

But Dearth said right now it is too soon to call COVID-19 endemic.

“We still have a much higher fatality rate with this disease and many other diseases that are endemic,” she said. “And just saying that something is endemic, kind of creates a sense of complacency.“

Dearth said with too many cases and too many unvaccinated people the virus can still mutate into more dangerous variants.

“There’s so much ample opportunity still for another variant to pop up somewhere in the world and make it here,” she said. “Borders are open, people travel, the virus travels.”

READ MORE: How Is Indiana Distributing COVID-19 Vaccines? Here’s What You Need To Know

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At the beginning of the pandemic, Dearth said the goal was to eradicate COVID-19. Dearth said health experts now hope enough people will become vaccinated to make it easier to manage.

Contact reporter Darian at dbenson@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @HelloImDarian.