Health: Health Word of the Day, “Endemic”

The Story:

One widespread school of thought about Covid-19, not merely in North America but in Europe as well, is that the disease is no longer a “pandemic,” a rare and disastrous contagion causing havoc around the globe. What it is now (runs this line of thinking) is an “endemic” disorder, one that calls for a different way of thinking among public health authorities.


Endemic is generally an adjective, whereas “pandemic” can be either adjective or noun. More important: an endemic disorder occurs regularly in predictable areas according to predictable patterns, and its occurrence is not considered an emergency. Influenza, for example, may well be considered an endemic illness.

The prime minister of Spain, Pedro Sanchez said recently that falling death rates for COVID-19 suggest that it should be considered an endemic disorder rather than a pandemic, and so a fact of life (requiring treatment and public health measures, yes) but not an emergency or a crisis.

In Pill Form:

The World Health Organization gave Covid-19 its highest alert level, that of “a global health emergency,” in January 2020. It could declare at some point in the near future that Covid-19 no longer rates that status.


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