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Is India Entering The Stage Of Endemic? What Does It Mean?

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Due to the combined efforts of the healthcare workers, government functionaries and most importantly, the people of the country, India can finally smell victory against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yes, this is true as many epidemiologists and virologists are believing that India is expected to reach the endemic stage by the end of 2022.

What does endemic mean?

You probably would be thinking that endemic means that the virus would no longer exist in the country. Well, unfortunately, this is not going to happen in the near future.

Endemic refers to a disease outbreak that stays within a specific area at a particular time and the authorities of the region would be able to beforehand estimate the rate of disease spread, transmission and severity of the outbreak. These outbreaks can be frequent but the chances of an extremely severe outbreak are less likely.

This means that fewer people would require hospitalisation and severe cases will also be a rare occurrence.

What did Indian authorities say?

Speaking about the condition of the pandemic in India, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan recently said that the country was seeing an overall decline in the number of cases in most parts.

The health officials are closely monitoring the chances of the emergence of new variants while the COVID-19 related restrictions are being eased. The country is still facing local outbreaks, especially in Kerala, a state that is accounting for most of the cases on a daily basis.

The caseload of Kerala is consistently increasing as one in every five samples tested in the state are coming out positive. Back in early August, one in every eight samples was coming out positive. The state alone accounts for more than 60% of new daily cases in the country.

Explaining the same, the National Institute of Immunology scientist Vineeta Bal commented that the country will keep witnessing some hotspots in different parts depending upon the seroprevalence status, vaccination coverage and adherence to social distancing norms. The frequency of such occurrences will reduce as soon as the vaccination coverage improves across the nation.

What did the WHO chief scientist say?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan recently stated that India is at or approaching the endemic stage.

She, while cautioning that things can change unexpectedly in a pandemic, specified that the country will still keep noticing small outbreaks in a few parts where the vaccine coverage is low.

Swaminathan also pointed out a mass blood sampling study that showed 65% seroprevalence for coronavirus in Indians. Seroprevalence represents the level of antibodies in the population of a particular country.

Seroprevalence coupled with extensive vaccination drives is expected to provide good protection against a severe third wave, which has been in talks ever since the brutal second wave subsided after wreaking havoc around the country.

She, however, pointed out that the things that may compromise the level of protection against the third wave are the appearance of the new variant and the duration of protection provided by the current set of vaccines. These possibilities can be handled through constant and rigorous surveillance.

Can India hope to avoid the third wave?

The experts believe that India is not going to experience yet another aggressive wave of COVID-19 as a serological survey conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) showed that two-third of the population of the country has antibodies against the virus.

It was a nationwide survey conducted by OCMR in June and July 2021 and involved a total of 29,000 participants, including 8,691 children, aged between six and 17 years. Even half of the children were found to be seropositive, which clearly meant that they were exposed to the virus.

The level of seropositivity was initially only because the person had been infected earlier but now vaccinations are also one of the reasons for that.

The director of the National Center for Disease Control Sujeet Singh has also said that despite the pandemic having defied most of our predictions, we will be entering the endemic stage within the next six months.

Takeaway

After about a couple of years of consistent fear, India is finally looking to be on the verge of a victory against COVID-19. While being hopeful, the experts have appealed to the people around the country not to loosen the guard against the virus. We should keep following the norms of social distancing and wearing a face mask every time we step outside. More importantly, we should get vaccinated at the earliest to achieve the seroprevalence the experts are talking about.

Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.

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