General, Research, Technology

What is the difference between a pandemic and an epidemic?

A new coronavirus is walking the planet. Just the other day, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of 2019-nCoV an international emergency. It is for this reason that it is 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 "pandemic", which means "belong to all people." A pandemic is a global outbreak. A pandemic is said to be when a new bacterium or virus becomes capable of spreading rapidly and affects a lot of people around the world.

Let's not forget that the history of mankind is the history of the fight against viruses

What is an epidemic?

An epidemic specific to a city, region, orcountry and occurs when the number of 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.

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What causes a pandemic?

The most common cause of a pandemicis a new strain or subtype of the virus that is easily transmitted from person to person. Sometimes pandemics are caused simply by the 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 be transmitted from person to person easily and quickly. 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 common among humans before. Moreover, a pandemic affects more people and can be more deadly than an epidemic. It can also lead to new social upheavals, economic losses and difficulties in general.

Every year in Russia and in the world there is an epidemic of influenza. The main thing is to get the vaccine on time!

After the emergence and spread of a pandemic inpeople develop immunity. Then the virus subtype can circulate among people for several years, which can lead to episodic epidemics (for example, flu). 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
  • Flu (H2N2): 1957-1958
  • Hong Kong Flu: 1968-1969
  • Avian Influenza (H1N1): 2009

Spanish Flu Pandemic from 1918 to 1920claimed 100 million lives, and rightly considered the worst in history. Today, one of the main problems is the resistance of some bacteria to antibiotics, as well as the frequent cases of transmission of viruses from animals to humans, as was the case with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), ebola and 2019-nCoV.

Crowded hospitals during the Spanish Flu pandemic

Read even more fascinating articles about how humanity fought against a wide variety of viruses, read on our channel in Yandex.Zen

A pandemic in the modern world can becomesource of a lot of problems. The fact is that viruses have much more opportunities for spread than in the past. Moreover, panic, when people try to leave the epicenter of an outbreak, can lead to an even greater spread of the disease. Making a vaccine can take months or years, as pandemic viruses are new agents. Medical facilities will be overloaded and there may be a shortage of personnel for emergency care, both due to a pandemic and for other reasons. Despite significant advances in medicine, epidemiologists consider the emergence of a pandemic only a matter of time. We hope their assumptions turn out to be erroneous.