It’s Endemic Now

It’s Endemic Now


Leonard Zwelling

The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 has been with us now for over two years. It is likely that it will be with us forever. The Flu Pandemic of 1918 ended, but flu was not gone after the pandemic subsided. It became an endemic disease that we face every winter and for which we try to immunize ourselves if we are smart. Even so, many people get flu every year and many die of it although this is mostly the elderly and infirm.

It is likely that Covid-19 will become like the flu. There will not be herd immunity for Covid any more than there is for the flu for the same reason. The virus keeps changing. It is likely that each year we will all need to be vaccinated against both the flu and against Covid-19. The pharmaceutical companies will have to take educated guesses about the construction of the vaccines and we can only hope that both flu and Covid-19 can be prevented with mRNA vaccines, perhaps even with a single, annual shot. My guess is that both Pfizer and Moderna are striving to have such a double shot vaccine ready by next autumn.

Could this shift from pandemic to endemic have been prevented entirely?

Probably not. Once the virus was let loose on the world, probably from Wuhan, it could never be contained. The virus was out of China before anyone had a clue what it was and from then on history was made.

There were points at which history could have been altered in favor of the humans had the governments of the world got their collective acts together and gotten everyone vaccinated, mandated mask wearing, and kept social gatherings to small groups, but alas, that was not to be. Perhaps it never could have been anyway.

My point here is that Covid-19 will become like the flu. Lots of people will contract it. Most will get better in a relatively self-limited interval and we will continue to spread it to one another just like we do the flu. The message may be that if you feel sick, stay home unless you are desperately ill and then get to an emergency room. Just as with the flu, there are going to be some people who get violently ill and need the supportive care and the antivirals to survive. That’s true of the flu now and will undoubtedly be true of Covid-19 as well.

I really do understand the demand for testing, but perhaps we have gone off the deep end if Omicron is going to infect us all anyway and the next variant is a few mutations in an immunocompromised host away from supplanting Omicron.

We are going to have to learn to live with this virus just as we have learned to live with the flu. In both cases, most people who take ill will do well with rest, fluids, antipyretics and perhaps the Tamiflu equivalent if the distinction between a flu illness and a Covid-19 illness can be made quickly.

Covid-19 is with us now. Let’s hope the governments of the world have learned what to do when the next pandemic sweeps in from nature or where ever. It’s not really a new world at all. It’s the one we had when the flu was rampant. People get sick. Then, most of them get well. That has been the case for centuries, but in the past fifty years, we have been able to do more to help people survive. We did it with the flu. We will do it with Covid-19.

In the meantime, to help us prepare for the next pandemic, perhaps we should insist that China answer for this one. I still want to know where the new corona virus came from and whether or not it was genetically altered by man. That’s not too much to ask of the United Nations and the US government. Find out!

4 thoughts on “It’s Endemic Now”

  1. ” It’s not really a new world at all.” – not sure if this rose above your subconscious or not, but that’s a paraphrase from Eclesiastes- “there is nothing new under the sun.”
    ” I still want to know where the new corona virus came from and whether or not it was genetically altered by man.” – as David Baltimore said, for allocation of resources (ie, extensive field testing versus extensive revision of lab procedures), that’s vital information. Or perhaps, we’ll never publically “know” for sure, but govts may double down on lab controls.

  2. Your last point is particularly salient. What do you foresee occurring if (when?) it’s discovered it was created in and accidentally(?) released from a lab? Will the world demand financial restitution from China, or will this lead to war? My hunch is the latter since there’s nothing like war to extricate nations from the financial quagmires their “leaders” have created via reckless spending.

    I’m fascinated by the number of people who have a “Who cares?” attitude about the virus’s origins. To me, that’s increasingly the only question that matters.

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