The main difference between epidemic and pandemic is the extent of their spread. An epidemic is a disease that spreads to a large number of people in a given area, during a short time period. However, if it spreads to other regions or countries and affects even a larger number of people, we call it a pandemic.
The two terms epidemic and pandemic refer to diseases that affect a great number of people. However, there is a distinct difference between epidemic and pandemic as a pandemic is greater in scale.
Key Areas Covered
1. What is an Epidemic
– Definition, Characteristics
2. What is a Pandemic
– Definition, Characteristics
3. What is the Difference Between Epidemic and Pandemic
– Comparison of Key Differences
Contagious Disease, Epidemic, Pandemic
What is an Epidemic
An epidemic is the swift spread of disease to a large number of people in a given population within a short period of time. Therefore, we call a disease an epidemic when it spreads to a large number of people, within a wide area catch it. Western African Ebola virus (2013 – 2016) and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in 2003 are two examples of epidemics.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), an epidemic refers to “the occurrence of more cases of the disease, injury, or other health condition than expected in a given area or among a specific group of persons during a particular period. Usually, the cases are presumed to have a common cause or to be related to one another in some way”.
An epidemic can be limited to one location; however, if it spreads to other regions or countries and affects a large number of people, we call it a pandemic. Moreover, an epidemic does not necessarily have to be contagious. The term epidemic has also been used to describe West Nile fever and even obesity. Besides, the transmission of the disease can be air-borne, faecal-oral, via arthropods, etc.
What is a Pandemic
A pandemic is an endemic disease that affects a wider geographical area (multiple continents or even worldwide) and a great portion of the population. There have been a number of pandemic diseases affecting the whole world. Moreover, in order to be classified as a pandemic, a disease should be infectious or contagious. Black death, which killed millions of people, HIV/AIDS, the 1918 Spanish flu, and the 2019 coronavirus disease are some examples of pandemic diseases.
Containment and mitigation are the basic strategies to control a pandemic. Containment includes contact tracing and isolating infected individuals while mitigation involves taking measures to slow the spread of the disease and its effects on the health care system and society.
Difference Between Epidemic and Pandemic
An epidemic is an outbreak of disease that spreads rapidly and affects many individuals at the same time, while a pandemic is an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an extremely high proportion of the population.
While an epidemic is limited to a specific region or even a continent, a pandemic affects multiple continents or the whole world.
Nature of Disease
Moreover, an epidemic is not necessarily a contagious disease, while pandemic diseases are always contagious.
Western African Ebola virus (2013 – 2016) and SARS in 2003 are examples of endemic diseases, while the 1918 Spanish flu and the 2019 coronavirus are examples of pandemic diseases.
An epidemic is a disease that spreads to a large number of people in a given area, during a short time period. However, if it spreads to other regions or countries and affects even a larger number of people, we call it a pandemic. Thus, the main difference between epidemic and pandemic is the extent of their spread.
1. “2014 West Africa Ebola Epidemic – New Cases per Week” By Delphi234 – Own work (CC0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “COVID-19 Outbreak World Map per Capita” By Raphaël Dunant – Own work, data from 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic, List of countries and dependencies by population and (NBC News) Coronavirus map: The COVID-19 virus is spreading across the world (CC BY 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia