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Will the Coronavirus Pandemic Soon Become an Endemic?


Most Americans, weary after two years of fighting COVID, are resigning themselves to a future that involves living alongside the disease indefinitely.

A new Kaiser Family Foundation survey shows 75 percent in the US are "tired" of the pandemic and 77 percent believe most people will eventually get the virus. Still, a third of those surveyed see the pandemic as the country's biggest problem.

Medical experts predict the end of the omicron surge may signal the transition from a pandemic to an endemic.  When a disease is endemic it is no longer unpredictably disruptive to daily life.

Stuart Ray, M.D., an infectious disease expert, and professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University told CBN News Americans have built up a lot of immunity as a result of the huge wave of omicron infections.

"I'm hopeful that we're going to get to a better place in the coming months,” he said. 

However, Dr. Ray points out that one of the challenges with thinking about an endemic state is that's not always a good thing.

"Tuberculosis and malaria are endemic in some countries and have devastating effects," he explained, "Millions of people die every year from these endemic diseases. So just because it's endemic doesn't mean it's mild." 

Experts point to the need for better vaccines.

"It looks like in the coming months we're going to hear about the results of an Omicron antigen vaccine which will probably be combined with the ancestral vaccine antigens," said Dr. Ray, "That combination may provide better, broader coverage."  

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Right now, it's nearly impossible to get certain life-saving treatments, and that needs to change.

"I'm glad we have antivirals and other tools to help rescue the people who do get infected. That's one of the real plusses in the current situation," said Dr. Ray, adding, "The U.S. government has been supportive from the previous administration through the current one in helping pharmaceutical companies ramp up production.  I hope they will be able to make those agents available to people everywhere."

As the coronavirus mutates, it tends to become more contagious, according to Jonathan Quick, M.D, adjunct professor of global health at Duke University and author of The End of Epidemics: The Looming Threat to Humanity and How to Stop It.

"The last two years have been stunning as we've seen this progression of variants,” said Dr. Quick. 

Often, like with omicron, more transmissible variants are less deadly, but not always.

"What would be really unfortunate," Dr. Quick explained, "Is after all the current viral activity going on with omicron, we had a variant, and there's no reason why we couldn't, that combines both the contagiousness of omicron and the deadliness of delta." 

Health experts stress that while COVID-19 remains unpredictable, it will likely transition from a pandemic to an endemic in the months ahead.  They warn future surges could be likely, but major restrictions may be less so.

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