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Coronavirus Outbreak Explained: What Is The Difference Between Pandemic And Epidemic?

According to World Health Organization, an epidemic becomes a pandemic when it spreads to a large geographical area and affects a huge percent of the population

The COVID-19 outbreak was first declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020
Highlights
  • The novel coronavirus was declared pandemic on March 11 by WHO
  • Epidemic is used to describe a problem that has grown out of control
  • Pandemic relates to geographic spread of a disease

New Delhi: The novel coronavirus, which was first reported in China’s Wuhan on December 31, 2019, was declared a global ‘pandemic’ on March 11, 2020 by the World Health Organization. The outbreak was first declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020. A public health emergency (PHE) implies a situation that is serious, unusual or unexpected; carries implications for public health beyond the affected State’s national border; and may require immediate international action.

Before March 11, the COVID-19 was being called as an epidemic by the organisation.

The terms pandemic and epidemic are never used to indicate the severity of the disease, only the degree at which the disease is spreading. According to WHO, the public health response of a disease or outbreak depends upon the terms like pandemic and epidemic other than the nature of the disease, to better control and prevent a disease. But what does pandemic and epidemic mean?

Epidemic

In general English, epidemic is used to describe a problem that has grown out of control. WHO defines epidemic as an outbreak of a disease that spreads quickly and affects many individuals at the same time. An epidemic is an event in which a disease is actively spreading.

Epidemics are often an increase in the number of disease cases that was not anticipated. An outbreak can occur in a community, geographical area or several countries.

Pandemic

The term pandemic, on the other hand, relates to geographic spread of the disease. A pandemic affects a wider geographical area, is often worldwide and infects a larger number of people as compared to an epidemic.

Pandemic are also often caused by a new virus or a new strain of virus that has not circulated within people for a long time. Humans have little to no immunity against the virus and it spreads quickly, causes more deaths and often creates social disruption and economic loss.

In conclusion a pandemic is an epidemic on a global level. WHO explains that an epidemic becomes a pandemic when it spreads over significant geographical areas and affects a large percent of the population.

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