The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic because of the unusually fast rate in which the virus is spreading. The new coronavirus has infected more than seven million people worldwide and has killed more than 400,00 people. But what’s the difference between a pandemic and epidemic, and how does designating pandemic status impact COVID-19?
An epidemic is an outbreak of a disease that spreads quickly and affects many people at the same time. An outbreak occurs when there is a sudden increase in the number of cases of a disease, like COVID-19. It generally describes an increase that was not anticipated. An outbreak can occur in a community, geographical area or several countries.
Epidemic is often used broadly to describe any problem that has grown out of control. During an epidemic, the disease is actively spreading.
Examples of past epidemics are the 1918 Spanish flu, the measles outbreak from 1981 to 1991, and a 2014 case of whopping cough.
A pandemic is a type of epidemic that relates to geographic spread and describes a disease that affects an entire country or the whole world.
An epidemic becomes a pandemic when it spreads over significant geographical areas and affects a large percent of the population.
In short, a pandemic is an epidemic on a national or global level.
Examples of past pandemics are the flu pandemic of 1968, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and the bubonic plague.
The terms pandemic and epidemic are never used to indicate the severity of the disease, only the degree at which the disease is spreading.
Declaring a pandemic allows national and global public health agencies to respond to the situation at a higher degree.
The use of the term also highlights the importance of countries working together in the effort to control the pandemic. More than anything, declaring a pandemic works to raise awareness about the problem and increase measures to control it.
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.
Learn more about COVID-19 by visiting our resource page.Know the Facts of COVID-19
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