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Pandemic to Endemic by October 2021: What Does It Mean for Malaysia?

Malaysia will be moving towards endemic phase beginning October 2021 as the population progresses towards the 80 percent full vaccination rate, according to the newly appointed Health Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin. We have heard in the past of the meaning of pandemic, epidemic, but endemic? How would life be for us living in an endemic phase?

Before we delve deeper into the meaning of pandemic, epidemic, and endemic, we must first understand that the concept of living together with a certain type of virus in a society, or community is not something new to human beings. Herpes, HIV, for instance, have been living in the global community for the longest of time. These types of viruses are still very much active, but manageable with the introduction of anti-virus medicines, as well as vaccinations. 

Kamus Dewan Bahasa Dan Pustaka, and Suhaimi (2020) wrote an article and refers epidemic as an easily transmissible disease or outbreak that spreads within a certain society or community. This term was first introduced in the 1600s during an outbreak in the Greek community, in which the term is still coined up until today.  

Pandemic on the other hand occurs on a bigger and larger scale, and is not confined to just a certain society or community. If left without proper strategy and planning, the outbreak will spread like wildfire and travels across states, countries, continents, and to the rest of the world. A pandemic begins with an epidemic that goes out of control and threaten lives in a short span of time. ‘The Black Death’ is one example that occurred in the 14th century that saw death on a massive scale. Spanish Flu or Pandemic 1918 was another major pandemic occurred in Europe. Prior to Covid-19 virus, HIV/AIDS is a pandemic that is still in the community and active, and has the potential to threat millions of lives by year 2025.

Endemic is defined as a disease or an outbreak that will continue to live and exist in a community or society, even an outbreak that will surpass borders and countries. Malaria, for instance, is an outbreak that spreads all across African continents. Suhaimi (2020) in his article mentioned Congo Republic, Madagascar, and Peru as the three highest countries in the world recording massive endemic outbreaks. Congo sees two major diseases, malaria and yellow fever; bubonic plague in Madagascar; and finally in Peru with yellow fever, malaria, and high fever.

It is safe to say that each virus has its status and can be categorized into either an epidemic, a pandemic, or an endemic, and these viruses and outbreaks can be properly managed and controlled with the introduction of anti-viral medicines, vaccinations, but most importantly, ensuring these viruses do not ‘’jump” from one host to another, as not being able to do so will ensure the disappearance of the virus from existing affecting human lives. Tan Sri Dr. Noor Hisham once said the Covid-19 virus follows wherever the human being (host) goes, as the virus is unable to move on its own. This being said, we must be vigilant and adhere to the SOPs and guidelines set by the government, as this is key for us to continue and learn living with the virus.

** The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of M-Update