Coronavirus May Stay Forever and Become an Endemic Like Malaria - WHO

  • Medical practitioners in protective gear at the Coronavirus Isolation facility in Mbagathi District Hospital on Friday, March 6, 2020.
    Medical practitioners in protective gear at the Coronavirus Isolation facility in Mbagathi District Hospital on Friday, March 6, 2020.
    Simon Kiragu
    KENYANS.CO.KE
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic may escalate into an endemic like Malaria or HIV and may never truly go away.

    On Wednesday, May 13, through an online briefing, WHO emergency expert Mike Ryan spoke out against predictions that the virus could be curbed any time soon. The expert added that even if a vaccine is manufactured, containing the disease would still require massive effort.

    A pandemic is is a disease that’s spread over multiple countries or continents while an endemic means that a disease belongs to a particular people or country or it exists permanently in a particular region or population. 

    WHO emergency expert Mike Ryan addresses a conference in 2019
    WHO emergency expert Mike Ryan addresses a conference in 2019
    File

    WHO's Warning

    "It is important to put this on the table: this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away. I don’t think anyone can predict when this disease will disappear. I think there are no promises in this and there are no dates. This disease may settle into a long problem, or it may not be.

    "HIV has not gone away - but we have come to terms with the virus," Ryan stated.

    WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus emphasised that even with the challenges, there was a possibility to control the spread of the virus even as Lesotho registered its first case as the last African country to report Covid-19 cases. 

    "The trajectory is in our hands, and it's everybody's business, and we should all contribute to stopping this pandemic," Tedros added. 

    Speaking with Kenyans.co.ke, Professor Matilu Mwau, a researcher at Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) stated that the disease keeps on mutating and despite WHO making the announcement, the trajectory of the disease was still being studied as it is a new disease.

    "Stating that a disease is an endemic means that you will come across it every month. Just like Dengue Fever in Mombasa or Malaria in Kenya. We still need to have more details on Coronavirus. Remember the WHO stated that it was not airborne and later realised it was. They stated that it was not a pandemic and it later became. We have to wait and see whether it would stay long or not," Mwau stated.

    Coronavirus Tally

    By Thursday, May 14, over 4,430,140 cases had been recorded globally with 298,180 deaths reported.

    In Kenya, on Wednesday, May 14, the Ministry of Health announced that the country had recorded 737 cases, with 40 fatalities reported.  

    Measures to Curb Coronavirus

    Among the measures Kenya has imposed are wearing masks, washing of hands, sanitizing, nationwide dusk-to-dawn curfew and partial lockdown in Covid-19 hotspots; Nairobi, Mombasa, Kwale and Kilifi.

    Health CS Mutahi Kagwe during a daily press briefing in April 2020
    Health CS Mutahi Kagwe during a daily press briefing in April 2020
    File

    The government also narrowed down on estates such as Eastleigh (Nairobi) and Old Town (Mombasa), where it imposed total lockdowns.

    As countries in Europe and Africa (Uganda and Rwanda), move to lift the lockdowns, Tedros warned that there was no guaranteed way of easing restrictions without triggering a new wave of infections.

    "Many countries would like to get out of the different measures. But our recommendation is still the alert at any country should be at the highest level possible," Tedros stated.

    "There is some magical thinking going on that lockdowns work perfectly and that unlocking lockdowns will go great. Both are fraught with dangers," Ryan added. 

    New Outbreaks 

    China is among the countries that have witnessed new cases of Coronavirus after lifting lockdowns. A Chinese city near the Russian border and a spate of new cases in Wuhan have prompted fears of a fresh wave of infections in China.

    "If new transmission accelerates, and you don't have the systems to detect it, it will be days or weeks before you know something has gone wrong. 

    "By the time that happens, you are back into a situation where the only response is another lockdown," Ryan stated. 

    A police tanker spotted in Eastleigh, Nairobi, on Thursday, May 7, 2020
    A police tanker spotted in Eastleigh, Nairobi, on Thursday, May 7, 2020
    File

    Business Resumption in Kenya

    In Kenya, the government allowed restaurants to open, as Health CS Kagwe urged business owners to adhere to Covid-19 measures.

     Health CS Mutahi, Kagwe, argued that the reopening of eateries was the right thing to do, but he would not hesitate to shut them down again.

    "As to whether we will roll back and close them again is a measure that is always on the table. There is nothing that is not on the table. But we are trying as much as we can to ensure that that is not what we do," Kagwe stated in May 2020.

    Vaccine 

    As normalcy resumes, amid the fact that the disease may stay for long, researches are trying their best to manufacture vaccines.

    More than 100 potential vaccines are being developed, including several in clinical trials. However, experts have ruled out their readiness.