COVID-19: How Do Pandemics End?

·2-min read

Video Editor: Puneet Bhatia

How do pandemics end?

It’s the question that all of us are waiting for an answer to. And the reality is, there is no one answer. Experts believe that pandemics can end in two ways - Medically, when the number of cases and death rates fall sharply and Socially - when the fear of the pandemic or the disease itself dies. Social end of a pandemic happens when the exhaustion caused by the economic downturn becomes greater than the fear of the disease itself.

What does history suggest?

Historically also, pandemic never end because of one reason. With the Bubonic plague, for example, scientists quote multiple factors - cold weather, change in the bacteria that caused the plague and also, a change in the carrier rats from black to brown, the latter having a larger tendency to stay away from humans. We still plague outbreaks, just not as vicious as the ones we saw till 19th century.

Smallpox, on the other hand, is the only pandemic that has been completely eradicated and that also was also because of multiple reasons - an effective one time vaccine, the fact that there was no animal host for the disease and also, the symptoms were so unusual and severe, it was easy to do contact tracing and isolate victims.

The last major pandemic, almost a century ago, was the Spanish Flu, which it is estimated to have killed anywhere between 50 to 100 million people. It eventually faded, when the virus mutated into the more benign form of the common flu.

So, how will COVID-19 end?

The World Health organisation has now said that the COVID-19 virus may never go away, and like with other endemic viruses, we may just have to live with it, even if there is a vaccine developed or a cure is found. But the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, has caused massive economic distress, which is now being called the greatest slowdown since the great depression . The global economy is expected to shrink by 3 % and losses could be upto 8.8 Trillion Dollars.

So, chances are, while we wait for a solution, we will, like we are seeing across India and in many other countries, slowly step out of our homes, and limp back to normalcy and embrace an altered new world.

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