When will the coronavirus end?Experts: Looking for answers from past pandemics…


Two years after the COVID-19 pandemic, most parts of the world have seen significant improvements in infection rates, hospitalizations and death rates in recent weeks, suggesting that the crisis of the epidemic appears to be fading.But how will it end?Past pandemics may provide some answers.So far, the end of COVID-19 has not been well studied.But Erica Charters of the University of Oxford, who has studied the issue, says there are some recurring problems that could serve as a guide for the coming months.”One of the things we’ve learned is that it’s a long, long process” that includes different types of endings that might not happen at the same time, she said.This includes a “medical endpoint” when the disease subsides, a “political endpoint” when government prevention stops, and a “social endpoint” when people move on.The COVID-19 pandemic ebbs and flows in different ways in different parts of the world.But in the United States, at least, there is reason to believe the end is near.About 65 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated.The number of cases has been declining for nearly two months, with the daily average in the United States dropping by about 40 percent in the last week alone.The number of hospitalizations also fell sharply, by nearly 30 percent.The mask ban has been lifted — even federal health officials have stopped wearing masks — and President Biden has said it’s time for people to return to their offices and resume their pre-pandemic lives.Some experts offer key points from past epidemics that may tell us how the COVID-19 pandemic will end.Influenza Before COVID-19, influenza was considered the most deadly pandemic agent.Historians estimate that the 1918-1919 flu pandemic killed 50 million people worldwide, including 675,000 in the United States.Another influenza pandemic in 1957-1958 killed an estimated 116,000 Americans, and another in 1968 killed more than 100,000.Another pandemic, caused by an H1N1 flu in 2009, turned out not to be particularly dangerous for the elderly — who tend to die from complications of the flu.In the end, fewer than 13,000 people died from the epidemic.In August 2010, the World Health Organization declared this H1N1 influenza pandemic to be in the post-pandemic stage, with cases and outbreaks entering the usual seasonal pattern.In each case, the epidemic subsided over time and the general population built up immunity.They become seasonal influenza in subsequent years.Experts say this pattern is likely to occur in the Novel Coronavirus pandemic as well.”It becomes normal,” says Matthew Ferrari, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Penn State University.”There is a regular, fluctuating pattern when there are more cases at certain times of the year and fewer cases at certain times of the year.It looks a lot like seasonal flu or a common cold.”In 1981, U.S. health officials reported a cluster of cases of cancer and pneumonia among gay men in California and New York.Then more and more cases began to appear, and by the next year, officials named the disease AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome.Researchers later determined it was caused by HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), which weakens a person’s immune system by destroying cells that fight disease and infection.For years, AIDS was considered a terrible death sentence, and in 1994 it became the leading cause of death for Americans ages 25 to 44.But treatments that emerged in the 1990s turned it into a chronic disease that most Americans could manage.However, the spread of AIDS has moved to Africa and other parts of the world, where it is not under control.Erica Charters of the University of Oxford says pandemics do not end with a single disease disappearing uniformly around the world.”The end of an epidemic is usually done by becoming a multi-regional epidemic,” she said.In 2015, Brazil experienced an outbreak of ZIKA virus infection, which is transmitted by mosquitoes and tends to cause only mild illness in most adults and children.But infection during pregnancy can lead to birth defects that affect brain development, leading to babies being born with abnormally small heads, which became a fear.Mosquitoes also spread zika in other Latin American countries by the end of that year.In 2016, the World Health Organization declared it an international public health emergency.The CENTERS for Disease Control and Prevention has received reports of 224 cases of mosquito-borne Zika virus in the continental United States and more than 36,000 cases in U.S. territories — the vast majority in Puerto Rico.But that number dropped sharply in 2017 and all but disappeared soon after, at least in the United States, where experts believe the epidemic is over as people develop immunity.Zika could remain a dormant problem for years, but could flare up again if the virus mutates or large numbers of young people with no immunity emerge.”There is never a hard and fast ending” for most epidemics, says Jamieson, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Emory University School of Medicine.The Geneva-based WHO, which declared COVID-19 a pandemic on 11 March 2020, will not declare an end to an international health emergency until there is a substantial decline in cases (or at least hospitalizations and deaths) in enough countries.Who has not yet announced a threshold for the target.But this week, WHO officials answered questions about the possible end of the pandemic, pointing out how much more needs to be done before the world turns the page.The number of COVID-19 cases in the United States is declining, with a 5 percent drop globally last week.But cases are rising in some countries, including Britain, New Zealand and Hong Kong.Dr. Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization, part of the World Health Organization, says people in many countries need vaccines and drugs.In Latin America and the Caribbean alone, more than 248 million people have yet to receive their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Carissa Etienne said at a press conference with reporters.Countries with low vaccination rates are likely to see an increase in illness, hospitalizations and deaths in the future, she said.”We are not out of this pandemic yet,” said Dr. Ciro Ugarte, director of health emergencies at the Pan American Health Organization.”We still need to deal with this epidemic very carefully.”

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