With the world focusing on the new coronavirus disease, COVID-19, you may hear epidemic and pandemic used frequently in news about the disease. But what do they mean and how does a pandemic differ from an epidemic?
Pandemic vs. Epidemic
What is an epidemic?
An epidemic disease is one affecting many persons at the same time, and spreading from person to person in a locality where the disease is not permanently prevalent. The World Health Organization (WHO) further specifies epidemic as occurring at the level of a region or community.
What is a pandemic?
Compared to an epidemic disease, a pandemic disease is an epidemic that has spread over a large area, that is, it’s prevalent throughout an entire country, continent, or the whole world. The WHO more specifically defines a pandemic as “a worldwide spread of a new disease.” In short, a pandemic is an epidemic on a national or global level.
The terms pandemic and epidemic are never used to indicate the severity of the disease, only the degree it is spreading.
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization characterized the new coronavirus (COVID-19) as a pandemic. COVID-19 is declared a pandemic because of the speed at which it has spread globally. The World Health Organization declares COVID-19 to be a controllable pandemic and continues to provide advice on precautionary practices and ways to stop the spread of the disease.