Coronavirus started as an epidemic — a disease affecting a large number of people within a community, population or region — in Wuhan, China.

As coronavirus crossed borders in January (United States) and February (Philippines, Korea and France, to name the first few), it became a pandemic: an epidemic spread over multiple countries or continents.

Today, many are wondering if coronavirus should be classified as endemic: a virus typical of a particular country, in this case, almost all countries.

The World Health Organization (WHO) thinks it’s possible. During a virtual press conference in May, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director-general, said “this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities and this virus may never go away.”

Just Another Known Risk?

Malaria is an endemic disease in African countries. Dengue Fever is endemic in South America. Asia is one permanent home for Chikungunya, a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes.

These endemic diseases are known risks to travelers. Global Rescue destination reports include this information under the “Health Assessment” section with the name and definition of the disease and recommended immunizations for visitors.

U.S. Department of State travel advisories also include a list of endemic diseases in the health section. Thailand, for example, has the following diseases present: Dengue, Chikungunya, Japanese encephalitis, Zika, Tuberculosis, Influenza, Malaria, Rabies, Cholera, Hepatitis A and B, HIV/AIDS, Typhoid and Melioidosis.

“Travelers know there is Ebola in Africa,” said Jim Sano, former president of Geographic Expeditions and a Yosemite Park Ranger. “It never went away — it is always a background travel risk.”

More Research Needed

Will coronavirus continue to exist in society, just as other viruses have, for years? Researchers, scientists, doctors and pharmaceutical companies are currently tracking reinfection time, COVID-19 competition with other viruses, for example, influenza, and seasonal differences in transmissibility to determine an answer.

In an October study published in Science magazine, researchers from Columbia University believe it is a little too early to call coronavirus endemic: “A critical concern has been whether humans will experience reinfections with this pathogen, which might enable it to become endemic.”

A vaccine, when developed, will also play a role in determining coronavirus’ classification of pandemic or endemic. It could, like an annual flu shot, reduce cases each year or, as with the smallpox vaccine, eradicate the virus.

Always Be Prepared

Classification from “pandemic” to “endemic” doesn’t mean travelers should toss their masks and skip the hand sanitizer. Coronavirus needs more investigation, tracking, research, education and awareness before it becomes a run-of-the-mill travel risk.

“Travelers will need back up plans for a whole host of risks. COVID-19 is another risk in the mix,” Sano said.

Sano provides an example.

“A rafting company operating in an Africa country lists risks in their policies, including capsizing in moving water. But as important are Ebola, Malaria and other diseases endemic to the area, background risks that travelers need to understand.”

Until a vaccine is available, COVID-19 is a risk that needs continuing awareness. Borders can close at any time, states and countries can issue lockdowns as needed, and transportation providers may require COVID-19 testing before, during or after a trip. Pre-trip research has always been important, but now it is essential.

Add Travel Protection Services

It’s also necessary for any traveler to sign up for a travel protection services membership. A membership, like one from Global Rescue, provides a safety net for any emergency that might occur before, during and after travel.

Not sure what the health or safety risks are in a destination country? Global Rescue’s intelligence team can provide a destination report with critical medical, security and other essential travel information for 219 countries and principalities worldwide.

Passport stolen? Just one call to Global Rescue will expedite the paperwork process.

Life-threating illness or injury while out of the country? Our medical team can help you with case management, translation services or advisory services and, if need be, our operations team will handle the logistics of getting you home safely.

Need to get tested for COVID-19 before taking a return flight? Members can call Global Rescue to find the nearest and most appropriate health care facility.

“A travel protection services membership is designed to assist and protect you throughout your travels by providing access to travel intelligence, emergency medical services and field rescue,” said Sano, a former tour operator and senior advisor at Global Rescue. “Your trip will be safer, healthier and happier with Global Rescue.”

Global Rescue memberships recently expanded to include rescue services within 100 miles of your home. Our new Local Field Rescue service means you can count on us wherever you are.