Is Covid still endemic? Experts aren’t so sure

“I think we’ve done a huge disservice by using the word ‘endemic,’ frankly,” Michael Fraser, executive director of the American Association of State and Territory Health Officials, told an audience of mostly Americans. public health workers during a panel discussion at the 2022 Preparedness Summit in Atlanta on Thursday.

“It’s not well understood. It’s not accurate,” he said. “There are endemic diseases that kill 400,000 people a year, like malaria…and there are endemic diseases like herpes or HSV-1 that affect half the population and maybe you get a cold sore.”

Endemic refers to the constant presence or “usual prevalence of a disease or infectious agent” among a population in a geographic area, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But that may be too simplistic a term to apply to Covid right now.

“It doesn’t seem to fit,” Lori Tremmel Freeman, executive director of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, told CNN at the event. “No term can truly be plugged in and played.”

“We don’t have all the pieces of this Covid puzzle,” she said. “It seems like a false narrative to talk about the ending. We can plan for that, but we have to be ready to go back to measurements if we see another variation or another wave.”

This is an urgent discussion, given that the Western world is moving – albeit at different speeds – towards a set of pre-pandemic measures and rules.

European countries ‘abruptly’ ended their restrictions earlier this year, the World Health Organization has said, and April saw Germany slash mask rules and the UK scrap all its measures of prevention.

The United States, meanwhile, could let its mask mandate at airports and on flights expire on Monday.

So what is the answer, according to the experts? Instead of using “endemic,” Fraser said, public health officials should focus on what “sustainable management” of Covid-19 might look like.

This means exploring options such as annual booster shots, keeping some prevention measures in reserve for future outbreaks – and constantly monitoring where, when and how the virus is spreading.

“We tend to think of endemic as an expected disease that is circulating,” said Janet Hamilton, executive director of the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, during the panel.

“That’s certainly what Covid is going to be – but the ‘expected’ part is still, I think, such a big question on the table,” she said.

CNN Health’s Jacqueline Howard contributed reporting.

YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.

Q: Will boosters be needed more than once a year?

A: Some people may be offered frequent boosters of the Covid-19 vaccine, according to Dr. Leana Wen, CNN medical analyst and emergency physician. But there are “a lot of things we don’t know,” she said.

“Certain groups of people may need more frequent vaccines,” Wen said, referring to immunocompromised people. “It is possible that in the future certain more vulnerable populations will be recommended to be vaccinated at a higher frequency than the general population.”

Wen added that contingencies would have to be put in place so that if a new variant that evaded previous immunity emerged, the option to develop, manufacture and distribute variant-specific vaccines would be available, which could increase the frequency of vaccines for that particular period. .

Send your questions here. Are you a healthcare worker battling Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you are facing: +1 347-322-0415.

READINGS OF THE WEEK

Much of Europe remains at CDC’s highest travel risk level as other regions improve

For three straight weeks, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not added a single new destination to its Tier 4 highest risk category for travel, report Forrest Brown and Marnie Hunter.

But as more territories fall off the list, much of Europe – including its popular travel hotspots – remains stubbornly lodged in Tier 4.

The United Kingdom, for example, has been at level 4 since July 19, 2021.

This puts England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the “very high” risk category for Covid-19. The other European countries at level 4 are France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.

Covid lockdowns cause chaos in world’s biggest car market

Factories close, new model launches are delayed and sales plummet. China’s huge auto market has been thrown into disarray by the country’s latest Covid surge, with strict shutdowns in several cities hitting vehicle production.

China’s worst outbreak in two years has prompted authorities to step up the country’s “zero-Covid” policy, locking down several major cities and tens of millions of people.

Strict lockdown measures in places such as Shanghai and Jilin province have forced automakers to halt manufacturing and risk delaying shipments at a time of strong global demand for vehicles, writes Laura He.

BA.2, where are you? Dominant strain has not shown signs of outbreak initiation in the United States

Maybe BA.2 really is the “stealth variant”.

The Omicron subvariant caused up to 3 in 4 cases of Covid-19 in the United States last week, according to the latest CDC genomic surveillance, but so far there is no sign of a impending surge in the United States.

Even though BA.2 has become dominant, the total number of cases continues to decline, writes Brenda Goodman. If things remain calm, as some models predict, it will be the first time that a viral strain has taken over the United States without causing an increase in Covid-19 cases.

SUPERIOR COUNCIL

Ventilated spaces help reduce the risk of transmission

We spend most of our days indoors — so “the air we breathe indoors has a huge impact on our health,” Joseph Allen, director of the Healthy Buildings Program at Harvard TH Chan, told CNN. School of Public Health.

A good rule of thumb, he advised, is to look at how well ventilated a space can be. The better the ventilation, the more the air is diluted, like outside.

But tasking people with assessing their own risk can be a challenge, so it’s important to have the basics of vaccinations and know Covid-19 infection rates.

THE PODCAST OF THE DAY

Learning a new language can be very difficult, so what did we do when we were kids? CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks to Professor John Schwieter about what happens in the brain when we learn a new language and the potential health benefits of being bilingual. Listen now.

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