An endemic virus is not an uncontrollable virus

It is true that the World Health Organization has warned that there is a possibility that the virus that causes COVID-19 will never disappear and become an endemic virus. But that does not necessarily mean that it is uncontrollable or that precautionary measures such as healthy distance do not make sense, as some netizens have interpreted.

The statement taken out of context was shared since May 14, in more than 30 Facebook posts. At least three of them have already been shared more than 10,000 times. The messages state that “After several months of fighting the virus #Covid_19, the WHO (World Health Organization) has declared the virus as an * Endemic Infection *, giving us to understand that it will be part of our daily lives (such as the common cold, HIV, chicken pox and many) “.

Some of these posts have confused many people. For example, a Facebook user questioned: “So what was the use of the closure and the destruction of the economy? It was obvious that they were going to come up with something like this (sic). Another one pointed out “The return to the new normal, rather the new world order. And they are not going to be vaccinated that is not necessary (sic) ”.

What did the WHO say?

On May 13, Mike Ryan, Director of Health Emergencies at the World Health Organization (WHO), said verbatim: “It is important to put this issue on the table: the virus could become another endemic virus in our communities and these viruses may never go away.”

But that cannot be considered an official WHO “statement”, as Ryan raised a possibility, not a fact, to begin with. Ryan said it is very difficult to project how long the virus will circulate the way it does now, as studies being done in several countries show that only a relatively low percentage of the population has become infected.

Here is the full press conference:

What is an endemic virus?

Rosalind Eggo, an infectious disease scholar at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, explained to the BBC that a disease is called endemic when “it is present in an area permanently, at all times for years and years.”

Both Ryan and viral publications use measles as an example of an endemic virus that has remained in the world for several decades and for which there are vaccines, however it has not been eradicated.

So is there no hope anymore?

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the WHO, emphasized that it is still possible to control SARS-CoV-2 —Which causes COVID-19— but he warned that it requires a coordinated effort: “the path is in our hands, and it is everyone’s business, and we should all contribute to stopping this pandemic,” he said.

“Many countries would like to end the different measures” of confinement, said the director of the highest world health authority, “but our recommendation is that countries still maintain the alert to the highest possible level,” he added.

Ryan himself pointed out that although SARS-CoV-2 has the potential to become an endemic virus, that does not mean that it is uncontrollable.

“HIV has not disappeared, but we have found a way to live with the virus. We find treatments and prevention methods and people do not feel scared as they did in the beginning and we can guarantee the lives of those who live with the virus, “explained Ryan. This example was also taken up in viral publications, but without further explanation.

Is it all about natural selection?

In other versions of this misinformation it is also said that “we are facing a natural selection as Darwin and Walace said (…) the strongest will survive.” But this is not exactly the case either.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) “most people who contract COVID-19 have mild or moderate symptoms and can recover with supportive measures.”

However, the WHO explains that approximately 1 in 5 people who contract COVID-19 end up with a serious illness and experience breathing difficulties.

Until now, it is known that “older people and those with previous medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart or lung problems, diabetes or cancer are more likely to have serious conditions.” However, the WHO specifies that Anyone can get COVID-19 and become seriously ill.

But that anyone, regardless of age or medical condition, must follow the recommendations to protect oneself and others against COVID-19 are:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.
  • Cover your mouth with a bent elbow or a handkerchief. If a handkerchief is used, it should be discarded immediately after use and hands washed.
  • Keep a distance of at least one meter from other people.
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