What is the difference between a pandemic and an epidemic?

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What is the difference between a pandemic and an epidemic?
What is the difference between a pandemic and an epidemic?

The new coronavirus is sweeping the planet. Just the other day, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the 2019-nCoV outbreak an international emergency. It is for this reason that it is high time to talk about what an epidemic is and how it differs from a pandemic. To begin with, the word "pandemic" comes from the Greek "pandemos" which means "to belong to all people." A pandemic is a global outbreak. A pandemic is said to occur when a new bacterium or virus becomes capable of spreading rapidly and affects many people around the world.

What is an epidemic?

An epidemic is specific to a city, region or country and occurs when the number of people infected exceeds the expected number within one country or part of it. If the infection is widespread in several countries at the same time, then it can develop into a pandemic.

What is causing the pandemic?

The most common cause of a pandemic is a new virus strain or subtype that spreads easily from person to person. Sometimes pandemics are simply caused by a disease's new ability to spread rapidly, as was the case with the outbreak of plague in the 17th century. A pandemic occurs when a new strain of the virus mutates, resulting in the ability to spread easily and quickly from person to person. Seasonal outbreaks (or epidemics) are usually caused by subtypes of the virus that is already circulating among us. And pandemics are usually caused by new subtypes of viruses. These subtypes were not previously common among humans. Moreover, the pandemic affects more people and may be more deadly than the epidemic. It can also lead to new social upheavals, economic losses and hardships in general.

Every year in Russia and in the world there is a flu epidemic. The main thing is to get vaccinated on time!

After the emergence and spread of a pandemic, people develop immunity. Then the subtype of the virus can circulate among humans for several years, which can lead to episodic epidemics (for example, influenza). Organizations such as WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) monitor the behavior and movement of viruses.

The most famous pandemics and epidemics in the history of mankind

  • Justinian's Plague: 540 - 541 AD
  • Black Death (Black Pestilence): 1346-1350
  • Cholera: 1899-1923
  • Spanish flu (H1N1): 1918-1920
  • Influenza (H2N2): 1957-1958
  • Hong Kong flu: 1968-1969
  • Avian influenza (H1N1): 2009

The Spanish flu pandemic from 1918 to 1920 claimed 100 million lives and is rightly considered the worst in history. Today, one of the main problems is the resistance of some bacteria to antibiotics, as well as the increased incidence of virus transmission from animals to humans, as was the case with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Ebola and 2019-nCoV.

Overcrowded hospitals during the Spanish flu pandemic

A pandemic in the modern world can be the source of a large number of problems. The fact is that viruses have much more opportunities to spread than in the past. Moreover, the occurrence of panic when people try to leave the epicenter of an outbreak can lead to an even greater spread of the disease. Vaccine production can take months or years as pandemic viruses are new agents. Medical facilities will be overwhelmed and there may be a shortage of personnel to provide emergency assistance, both due to the pandemic and for other reasons. Despite significant advances in medicine, epidemiologists consider the emergence of a pandemic only a matter of time. Hopefully, their assumptions will turn out to be wrong.

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