Endemic or pandemic Covid: what’s the difference

Endemic or pandemic Covid: what's the difference

What is the difference between the two terms endemic and pandemic and at what stage of the spread of the virus we are at this moment

In the last two years our daily vocabulary has been enriched with terms that we had not used before or, if we had, it had not happened with this frequency.

From swab, to quarantine, up to endemic and pandemic to refer to Covid. But what is the difference between these two words that have taken hold in recent years?

Before talking about the difference between the two types, it is good to remember that it was only in the last period, with the advancement of the new Omicron variant, that we are increasingly talking about endemic.

Let’s see why.

Difference between endemic and pandemic Covid

The difference between endemic and pandemic Covid lies above all in its spread and refers to two possible distinct phases.

The pandemic is that moment in which a new virus is transmitted from one person to another and is not limited to a small area, but spreads over very large areas or several continents of the world. During this phase, transmission affects the majority of the population.

This is what happened in March 2020 (more precisely on the 11th of that month) when the World Health Organization stated that the Covid-19 epidemic could be considered a pandemic. In a short time, the virus had hit more areas of the world, spreading quickly and easily through the population. Until then it had been considered an epidemic, that is, a virus that is transmitted from one human to another in a short time and with a rapid increase in cases. The difference with the pandemic is that the epidemic lasts for a short time.

On the website of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità you can read a distinction between the possible manifestations of infectious diseases. Among these is the endemia. It is explained that it is considered an endemic disease when the virus is stable and circulates in the population. The number of cases can be large, but the distribution is uniform over time.

The endemic Covid, therefore, could be the next phase of the pandemic. But will it be?

Covid endemic

Are we slowly coming to be able to consider Covid an endemic virus? There are those who say yes (not specifying the timing that will lead to the change yet) and that this step can be linked to the Omicron variant.

The European Medicines Agency has pursued this thesis, but with reservations. The WHO has a different opinion, which believes it has not yet reached that point, because the spread of the new variant is not yet stable and uncertainties are still numerous.

The forecast made by the World Health Organization is that over 50 per cent of Europeans could be infected with Omicron in the coming weeks.

At the moment, in the meantime, we are not yet in the endemic phase of the spread of Covid. If the transition from pandemic to endemic Covid takes place, it is not yet known what the timing will be. But the debate on this has already been opened both in the scientific community and among politicians. Among the latter, the Spanish premier was the spokesperson for the possibility of treating Covid as an endemic disease, but the WHO has curbed this possibility for the moment.

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