Endemic meaning: difference between pandemic and endemic explained - as UK Covid infections drop by 90%

The Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines have helped cut Covid cases by two-thirds

The success of the mass Covid vaccination rollout means the UK is no longer in a pandemic, health experts have said.

A new real-world study, based on data from the national Covid Infection Survey, has found that the huge vaccine drive has helped to cut infection rates by 90 per cent, bringing both symptomatic and asymptomatic cases down.

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‘Moved from pandemic to endemic’

The huge vaccine drive has helped to cut infection rates by 90 per cent (Photo: Getty Images)

Coronavirus has dropped to being the third biggest killer in England for the first time in six months, behind dementia and Alzheimer's, and ischaemic heart disease, thanks to vaccines reducing infection rates and transmission.

The study, run by the University of Oxford and the Office for National Statistics (ONS), found that having just one dose of either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines cuts Covid cases by two-thirds, and is 74 per cent effective against symptomatic infection.

After two doses of the Pfizer jab, cases drop by 70 per cent, while symptomatic cases fall by 90 per cent.

Sarah Walker, professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at Oxford and chief investigator on the survey, told The Telegraph that Britain had “moved from a pandemic to an endemic situation”, and said she was “cautiously optimistic” that the vaccination programme can keep Covid under control.

She said: “Without vaccines, I don’t think getting close to zero is really feasible in the situation now in the UK where we’re effectively endemic, we’ve moved from a pandemic to an endemic situation.

“Long-term lockdown isn’t a viable solution so vaccines are clearly going to be the only way that we are going to have a chance to control this.”.

“But I think the challenge is that, as demonstrated in India, in Canada and Brazil, the virus is very good at throwing us curveballs.

“And so I think we’re always looking at one small step away from potential for things to go wrong again.”

What is an endemic?

An endemic is a disease or condition which has a “constant presence and/or usual prevalence” within a particular region or among people in a certain area.

As such, the disease has not been eradicated or died out, nor does the number of people infected increase exponentially, meaning the infection is said to be in an endemic state.

An outbreak in an endemic can refer to a single case in an area where the disease has not been detected before, and if this is not contained, it could potentially evolve into an epidemic, or even a pandemic if it spreads out of control.

Examples of endemic diseases include chickenpox, malaria, typhoid fever, measles and chagas disease.

How is an endemic different from a pandemic?

Unlike an endemic, an epidemic is when a large-scale disease is actively spreading, and new cases substantially exceed what is expected, making it difficult to control.

An epidemic is typically localised to a particular region, rather than one spread across the globe, but the number of people infected in that area is significantly higher than normal.

A pandemic is even larger than an epidemic as it refers to the worldwide spread of a disease, across several countries or continents, affecting a large number of people.

A viral outbreak could be categorised as a pandemic if it is markedly different from recently circulating strains, and if humans have little or no immunity to it, according to the UK’s Health and Safety Executive.

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