Difference Between Epidemic and Pandemic

difference between epidemic and pandemic

The difference between an Epidemic and a Pandemic in general is that an Epidemic is an outbreak of a disease in such a way that a large geographic area is affected, whereas a Pandemic is an outbreak of a disease in many countries or the whole world.

Epidemic is a term that is often used broadly to describe any problem that has grown out of control. An epidemic is defined as “an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a large geographic area and affects a large proportion of the population.” An epidemic is an event in which a disease is actively spreading.

In contrast, the term pandemic relates to geographic spread and is used to describe a disease that affects an entire country or the entire world.

While casual usage of epidemic may not require such nuance, it is important to know the difference between these two terms (and similar ones such as outbreak and endemic) when considering public health news. Moreover, from an epidemiological point of view, terms like these direct the public health response to better control and prevent disease.

While epidemic is usually used to describe a health problem (e.g. The opioid crisis in America has grown to epidemic proportions. ), it is sometimes used colloquially to describe behavior (There is an epidemic of anger among preschoolers!) or behavioral phenomena (such as “epidemic hysteria”).

Although their use is inappropriate in modern contexts, their use can cause confusion. In addition, even when the word is used to define a health problem, it may not accurately describe the scale or progression of a disease. In some cases, terms such as plague or endemic may be more appropriate. In other countries, epidemics may fail to reflect the scale of the problem and are better defined as a pandemic.

Definition of Epidemic

An epidemic is an outbreak of a disease that spreads over a large geographic area. In this word ‘epidemic,’ epi ‘means ‘later’ while the word ‘demic’ comes from the Greek word ‘dêmos,’ which stands for “people of a district.” It has many broader meanings, for example, “contagious,” “too prevalent,” or “known to a very broad growth or degree.”

So, the word epidemic is used when the disease is in a certain large geographic area. It infects less number of people due to its spread in limited area and hence, causes less number of deaths. Epidemic diseases may or may not be the result of new viruses or strains. It happens more often but, it does not become famous or unknown to many people due to its limited spread in certain geographic areas.

Definition of a Pandemic

A pandemic is an outbreak of a disease that spreads throughout a country or the world. The word ‘pandemic’ comes from the Greek word ‘pándēmos,’ which means “general.” So, the word pandemic is used when this disease spreads to different countries or the whole world through travelers, etc.

A pandemic disease affects a large number of people around the world. So, it causes more deaths. This problem mostly arises from new viruses or strains that have not existed in the world for a long time. Because of this, people have lower immunity to it. Thus, it spread rapidly. This problem causes huge economic losses and social disruption.

However, some epidemiologists classify the situation as a pandemic only after the disease persists in some newly affected areas through local transmission.

To illustrate, a traveler who is sick with COVID-19 who returns to the US from China does not create a pandemic, but once they infect some family member or friend. If a new local outbreak occurs, epidemiologists will agree that efforts to control the global spread have failed and refer to the situation emerging as a pandemic.

Key Differences Epidemic and Pandemic

  1. An outbreak of a disease that spreads over a large geographic area is known as an epidemic, while a disease outbreak that spreads across a country or the world is known as a pandemic.
  2. In the word ‘epidemic,’ epi ‘means ‘later’ while the word ‘demic’ comes from the Greek word ‘dêmos,’ which stands for “people of a district.” On the other hand, the word ‘pandemic’ comes from the Greek word ‘pándēmos,’ which means “general.”
  3. Epidemic diseases cover a large geographic area. In contrast, a pandemic disease covers an entire country or the entire world.
  4. The word epidemic can be used when the disease is in a certain large geographic area. On the other hand, a disease becomes a pandemic when it spreads to different countries or around the world through travelers, etc.
  5. The problem of the epidemic infects a smaller number of people. On the other hand, a pandemic disease affects a large number of people around the world.
  6. Epidemic diseases cause fewer deaths, while pandemic diseases cause more deaths.
  7. The epidemic problem may or may not be the result of a new virus or strain. On the other hand, pandemic problems are mostly caused by new viruses or strains that haven’t existed in the world for a long time.
  8. Epidemic diseases cause less social problems and economic losses, whereas pandemic problems cause large economic losses and social disruption.
  9. An epidemic disease was common, but it did not become famous because of its limited distribution. On the other hand, pandemic diseases don’t happen very often, and when they do, they become famous everywhere because of their spread all over the world.
  10. Examples of epidemic diseases are measles from 1981 to 1991, the Spanish flu of 1918, and whooping cough in 2022. On the other hand, examples of pandemic diseases are the 1968 flu, the HIV or AIDS pandemic, the bubonic plague, and COVID-19.

Conclusion

The above review summarizes that an epidemic is an outbreak of a disease in a large geographical area that causes less affected people and economic losses. On the other hand, a pandemic attack is an outbreak of a disease in a large number of countries or around the world. It infected a large number of people and caused huge economic losses.