What is the difference between a pandemic and an epidemic?

The new coronavirus is sweeping the planet. Just recently, the world Health Organization (who) declared the outbreak 2019-nCoV extraordinary international situation. For this reason, it’s time to talk about what the epidemic is and how it differs from a pandemic. Let’s start with the fact that the word “pandemic” comes from Greek “Pandemos”, which means “to belong to all people.” A pandemic is an outbreak on a global scale. On the occurrence of a pandemic, say when a new bacterium or a virus become capable of rapid spread and affect a lot of people around the world.

What is an epidemic?

An epidemic is specific to a city, region or country and is caused when the number of cases exceeds the expected number within the same country or part of it. If the infection is widespread in several countries at the same time, it could turn into a pandemic.

What causes a pandemic?

The most common cause of the pandemic is a new strain or subtype of virus that is easily transmitted from person to person. Sometimes pandemic caused by a new ability of disease to spread rapidly, as in the case of outbreak of plague in the 17th century. A pandemic occurs when a new strain of the virus mutates, causing it acquires the ability to spread from person to person easily and quickly. Seasonal outbreaks (or epidemics) generally caused by subtypes of the virus that is already circulating among us. A pandemic is usually caused by new subtypes of viruses. These subtypes have not previously been distributed to people. Moreover, the pandemic affects more people and can be more lethal than the epidemic. It can also lead to social disruption, economic losses and difficulties in General.

After the occurrence and spread of a pandemic, people develop immunity. Then the subtype of the virus can circulate among people for several years, which could lead to sporadic epidemics (e.g., influenza). Organizations such as the who and the Centers for control and prevention of diseases (CDC), monitor the behavior and movement of viruses.

The most well-known pandemics and epidemics in human history

  • Justiniana plague: 540 — 541 BC
  • Black death (black plague): 1346-1350
  • Cholera: 1899-1923 years.
  • Spanish flu (H1N1): 1918-1920
  • The flu (H2N2): 1957-1958
  • Hong Kong flu: 1968-1969
  • Bird flu (H1N1): 2009

The Spanish flu pandemic from 1918 to 1920 has claimed 100 million lives, and it is considered the worst in history. Today one of the main problems is resistance of some bacteria to antibiotics and the increased incidence of transmission of viruses from animals to humans, as was the case with the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), and Ebola 2019-nCoV.

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