Sat. Jul 4th, 2020

What if CoVID-19 becomes endemic?


By Wazir Zafar Hassan

It seems that COVID-19 is not going away any time soon. So far the coronavirus infection has affected around 7 million people across the world, taking almost 0.4 million human lives.

WHO labelled the latest coronavirus as a pandemic in March. WHO’s emergencies chief, Dr Ryan had said that we may have to learn to live with coronavirus. He added that it is impossible to predict when the virus will be wiped out and may become just another endemic virus in our community. The new coronavirus might be here to stay. Or, in other words, it can become endemic.

Endemic diseases are the ones caused by a virus or pathogen that keeps circulating in the human population and will continue to infect the people who have not been vaccinated. In the absence of a vaccine, so far, CoVID-19 appears to have the potential to become endemic. Containing the disease will be very hard, until a vaccine is developed.

A disease can be contained in three different stages: control, elimination and eradication. Control is a stage where the number of fresh infections is less than the number of patients being cured or discharged.

Do you think coronavirus is controlled in Pakistan?

The next stage is of elimination, i.e., when a particular area reports zero new cases of fresh infection. All the existing patients have been discharged after being cured. This happened with Ebola in Congo.

The third stage is eradication. WHO has warned that coronavirus may never be eradicated.

Smallpox is the only human disease that has been eradicated from the world; he WHO declared so in 1980. AIDS is under control today. It is possible that CoVID-19 may live with us like other diseases, like Malaria, Cholera. Typhoid, Tuberculosis, Ebola, Influenza and HIV.

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), is believed to have first appeared 100 years ago from Chimpanzees in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The virus is transmitted through bodily fluids like semen and blood. It became pandemic in the 1980s. By 1990s more than 3 million people were infected with HIV in over 145 countries. Currently, we have antiretroviral drugs that can treat HIV even as a complete cure remains evasive. Nearly 20 million people are being treated for HIV and proper treatment allows patients to live a relatively comfortable life as compared to the 1980s, when HIV infection was seen as a death sentence. This becomes possible when people took preventive steps such as protection and it became the new normal for people. People start living with HIV.

We all are optimistic that the vaccine of coronavirus will be developed soon. But it will take many months even more than a year for the vaccine to be available in markets if scientists succeed in developing the vaccine in the coming days. There is also a concept of Herd immunity. According to this concept the majority of the population, infected with the virus, will be perished or survived by building up their immune responses. At this point, the virus can no longer find new hosts. Then the pandemic will be over. The lockdown has been relaxed in many countries like Pakistan and India. At the same time, all the governments across the world are reiterating that people must learn to live the virus and should follow preventive steps. These preventive steps may become new normal. Social distancing may become a new normal that will be practised everywhere including bank lines, movie ticket lines, railway tickets, prayers in schools, governmental offices and at many other places. Wearing masks and using sanitizer may become a new habit, though it will take time for Pakistanis and Indians to adopt the habit completely. In fact, sanitizers will be available at all public places. People will avoid contact with each other to protect themselves from the pandemic and will use technology for routine works. Digital transactions will get more importance. Work from home may become a new normal. Social distancing will be practised in educational institutes as well. People will avoid handshakes. Our relationships with restaurants may change. Online works and jobs will be increased considerably. Digital education may become a new way to reach the maximum of students. Lots of changes may be seen in transportation. Every model of transportation will follow the methods of social distancing. People may become more dependent on machines.

In short, we can say that life before and after the corona pandemic will not be the same. Our way of living will be changed to a great extent. The governments should try to improve health infrastructure to contain the further outbreak and to cope with any corona like a virus in future. We should adopt preventive steps to contain any further outbreak. It is a time that the government need to realize that they have to spend more on health and education. We are not only fighting the COVID-19 but the illiteracy as well. For that, we must behave like educated persons and spread awareness about the virus. If we all coordinate properly, this could end the pandemic in just a few months. But unless the virus is completely eradicated, which is highly unlikely, there will be risks of it escalating to a pandemic level once again. And factors like animals carrying and transmitting the virus might destabilize our best efforts altogether. The slow, steady and the proven option is the vaccine of this virus. Even if the pandemic officially ends before a vaccine is ready, the virus may reappear, so the vaccine is the only option we have to protect people of the world. Take heart, the pandemic will end.

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