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VERIFY: What is an endemic?

Our experts say there’s no metric or cut-off per se, that lets you know when you're in an endemic.

WASHINGTON — The word ‘endemic’ is getting a lot of attention following a viral TV moment with Chief Medical Advisor to the President, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

“We are certainly, in this county, out of the pandemic phase," Fauci said during a PBS Newshour interview that aired Tuesday.

Dr. Fauci later clarified his statement to news outlets.

“We’re really in a transitional phase, from a deceleration of the numbers into hopefully a more controlled phase and endemicity," the Washington Post quotes Dr. Fauci saying.

All over social media, people are talking about endemics.


What is an endemic and how is it different from a pandemic?


  • Dr. Amesh Adalja- senior scholar, Johns Hopkins University
  • Dr. William Schaffner- professor of medicine, Vanderbilt University


“An endemic disease is one that's always around, it's always with the people—that's amongst the people," Dr. Adalja said.  "And when it comes to SARS-CoV-2 the virus that causes COVID-19, it was always destined to become endemic because it's not a virus that can be eliminated or eradicated.”

Dr. Schaffner agreed.

“Once the pandemic recedes, and the virus is still in your community smoldering along making a small amount of infectious disease, that's when we call it an endemic," Schaffner said. "You're living with the virus, although it doesn't have the really bad impact that it did when it started out and it was a full-blown pandemic."

Our experts say there’s no metric or cut-off per se, that lets you know when you're in an endemic.

The World Health Organization told VERIFY via email back in February, that it’s when "a disease is globally present but at expected or normal levels."

RELATED: When does COVID-19 go from pandemic to endemic? There’s no statistical cut-off

For example, Adalja says the flu is endemic because we’ve learned to live with it, although we have seasonal breakouts of the disease.

“What, to me, distinguishes a pandemic versus an endemic infectious disease is that you don't see health systems overwhelmed," Adalja said. "When a disease is causing hospitals to worry about capacity, it really is not something that you see other endemic diseases do.”

That jives with what Dr. Fauci described in his PBS Newshour interview.

"We are certainly right now in this country out of the pandemic phase," he said. "Namely, we don't have 900,000 new infections a day and tens and tens and tens of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths. We are at a low level right now."

As for the global picture, Fauci said "there's no doubt this pandemic is still ongoing."

RELATED: VERIFY: When will the COVID pandemic be considered over?

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