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When will the COVID pandemic end?History shows that illness often stays here

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When will the pandemic end? In all these months 39 million COVID-19 cases and more than 1 million deaths Globally, you may wonder how long this will last as frustration increases.

Nükhet Varlik

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Since the beginning of the pandemic, epidemiologists and public health professionals have Are using Math model Predict the future to control the spread of the coronavirus. However, care must be taken when modeling infectious diseases.

Epidemiologists warn:[m]Odel is not a crystal ball, And even such a sophisticated version Combine predictions Or Use machine learning, It is not always clear when the pandemic will end or How many people will die..

As A historian studying illness and public health, I suggest that instead of looking forward to clues, we can look back on what has ended or did not end past occurrences.

Tens of thousands of new cases of COVID-19 are diagnosed daily in the United States. (Universal Image Group via Jeff Greenberg / Getty Images)

Where we are in the process of a pandemic

In the early days of the pandemic, many people simply wanted the coronavirus to disappear.Some people say it Disappears automatically In the heat of summer..Others Herd immunity When enough people are infected, they will kick in. But that didn’t happen.

A combination of public health efforts to contain and mitigate a pandemic – from rigorous testing and contact tracing to increasing social distance and wearing masks – Proven to be useful..Given that the virus has Spreads almost anywhere in the worldHowever, such measures alone cannot end the pandemic.All eyes are on now Vaccine development, Is being pursued at an unprecedented speed.

Still, experts say that even if the vaccine and effective treatment are successful COVID-19 will never go away.. Even if a pandemic is suppressed in parts of the world, it can continue in other parts of the world and cause infections elsewhere. And even if it’s no longer an imminent pandemic-level threat, the coronavirus can become endemic. That is, a slow and persistent infection will continue. Coronaviruses, like seasonal influenza, continue to cause minor outbreaks.

The history of the pandemic is full of such frustrating examples.

When they appear, the illness rarely goes away

Beside us, virtually all pathogens, whether bacteria, viruses or parasites, that have affected people over the past millennia, are nearly impossible to eradicate completely. There is.

The only illness that has been Smallpox was eradicated by vaccination.. Mass vaccination campaign With the success of the World Health Organization in the 1960s and 1970s, smallpox was declared the first and still the only human illness to be completely eradicated in 1980.

Children in Cameroon show off their smallpox vaccination certificate in 1975. (Smith Collection / Gado via Getty Images)

Therefore, success stories like smallpox are exceptional. Rather, the rule is that the illness will stay.

For example, take the following pathogens: malaria.. It is transmitted through parasites, is about as old as humans, and still bears the burden of serious illness today. 228 million malaria cases and 405,000 deaths Since 1955, a global program for the eradication of malaria that supports the use of DDT and chloroquine has had some success, but the disease has been Endemic still in many countries of Global South..

Similarly tuberculosis, Leprosy And measles I’ve been with us for thousands of years. And despite all the efforts Immediate eradication is not yet visible..

Add the following relatively young pathogens to this mix: HIV And Ebola virus, In addition to influenza And Coronavirus Including SARS, MERS And SARS-CoV-2 causing COVID-19, And the overall epidemiological situation becomes clear.Research on Global burden of illness The annual mortality rate caused by infectious diseases, most of which occur in developing countries, was found to be nearly one-third of all deaths worldwide.

Today, we are constantly under threat in times of global air travel, climate variability and ecosystem turmoil. Emerging infectious diseases While continuing to suffer from a much older illness that is alive.

Most infectious diseases stay here when added to the repertoire of pathogens that affect human society.

The plague caused a pandemic of the past – and still pops up

Even infectious diseases that currently have effective vaccines and cures continue to die.Perhaps no illness can help explain this point better Plague, the most deadly single Infectious diseases in human history. The name continues to be synonymous with horror today.

Archaeologists learn more about past illnesses when excavating such mass graves in Italy. (AP photo / Francesco Bellini)

Plague Caused by bacteria Yersinia pestis.. Over the last 5,000 years, there have been countless regional outbreaks, at least three plague outbreaks have been recorded, and hundreds of millions have died.The most notorious of all pandemics Black death In the middle of the 14th century.

yet Black death It wasn’t an isolated explosion. The plague reoccurs every 10 years or more, each time it hits an already weakened society, At least 6th century..Even before Hygiene revolution In the 19th century, each outbreak gradually declined over months and sometimes years as a result of changes in temperature, humidity, hosts, vectors, and availability of a sufficient number of sensitive individuals. ..

Some societies recovered relatively quickly from the losses caused by the plague. Others never did.For example, the Middle Ages Egypt could not recover completely Especially from the protracted effects of the pandemic that devastated the agricultural sector. It has become impossible to regain the cumulative effects of population decline. It led to the gradual decline of the Mamluk dynasty and its conquest by the Ottoman Empire within the second century.

We still have Yersinia pestis that destroys that exact same condition Also todayReminds us of the very long persistence and resilience of pathogens.

Hopefully COVID-19 will not last for thousands of years. But until the vaccine is successful, and perhaps even after, no one is safe. Politics here is very important. If the vaccination program is weakened, the infection can reoccur.please look measles And Polio, Will come back as soon as vaccination efforts diminish.

Given such historical and modern precedents, humanity can only expect the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 to prove to be a manageable and eradicateable pathogen. But the history of pandemics teaches us to expect otherwise.conversation

About the author

Nükhet Varlik, Associate Professor of History, University of South Carolina. This article will be republished from conversation Under a Creative Commons license.Read Original work..

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