OPINION

Health and Wellness: What’s an endemic?

Ann Cochran - Dallas County Health Department
Special to Dallas County News and Perry Chief
A blank COVID-19 vaccination card sits ready to be filled out during a clinic in the Community Center at the Oakridge Neighborhood on Saturday, April 10, 2021, in Des Moines, IA.

The word endemic is being used more often this year. What does it mean and how is it different from an epidemic or a pandemic?

First, an epidemic is a sudden outbreak of a disease that spreads quickly within a specific location or population. Rotavirus is an example of a serious, contagious illness that can become an epidemic in a daycare center within days. Fortunately, Rotavirus is one of the first vaccines an infant can get.

When an epidemic spreads beyond a local population to global infection, it becomes a pandemic. The influenza pandemic of 1918 swept throughout the world, and lasted many months.

Finally, an endemic describes a disease that is always present in a region, or among a group of people. Here in the US, influenza is endemic. Malaria has reached the endemic stage in parts of Africa, because constant high temperatures allow Anopheles mosquitos to breed and spread malaria. As long as the conditions stay the same, there will be malaria in those areas.

During 2022, health care experts are beginning to think of COVID-19 as an endemic disease that will continue to circulate. The transition from pandemic to endemic is gradual, and doesn’t lessen the seriousness of coronavirus.