Pandemic and epidemic

Pandemic and epidemic are two terms that usually seem similar but are not. A pandemic is an epidemic that has spread globally to various countries and continents of the world.

Today we will know the differences between both concepts.

DefinitionWorldwide spread of a new disease.Disease that spreads in a population for a certain time.
Characteristics-Affects a number of people

-Cause more deaths

-Causes social disorganization and economic losses.

-Cases exceed normal expectation

-The location and period of the cases are precisely specified.

-Contagion in a short period of time.

What is a pandemic?

pandemic is spreading wide world of a new disease , on which most humans have no immunity to it yet. A pandemic is a public health emergency and one of its main characteristics is that it causes serious cases and, although it may represent a small percentage of the population, it warns about constant and unsolvable vulnerability.

In general, according to recent cases of viruses that have caused pandemics, they come from influenza viruses that infect animals, as was the case with bird flu.

Examples of pandemics

– Smallpox: Smallpox was spread through bodily fluids and direct contact. The survival rate for this pandemic was 30%. At present this disease is eradicated.

-Measles: the means of contagion of this disease is by direct contact and by air. When measles caused inflammation of the lungs or meninges, it caused death.

-Spanish flu of 1918: the first outbreak of this disease arose in France and then spread to Spain. It caused between 50 to 100 million deaths.

-Black plague or bubonic plague: the well-known black plague was caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis and its contagion was managed by parasites such as the flea.

-Typhus: typhus is a disease caused by the Rickettsia bacteria, it spread throughout the countries of the European and American continent.

-Cholera : this disease was caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Today it still generates outbreaks of sporadic epidemics.

-H1N1 Influenza : Experts consider it a mutation in influenza pandemics that occurs every 10 or 15 years.

-Covid-19: it is an infectious disease caused by a recently discovered coronavirus. The virus broke out in December 2019 in the town of Wuhan, China. Until then, both the virus and the disease were unknown. The Covid-19 disease transmits mainly through the droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes or exhales.

Stages of a pandemic

As we have seen today with the Covid-19 disease , a pandemic has different stages or phases and alert levels.

The World Health Organization (WHO) establishes six alert phases when a virus already becomes a global threat. They provide a general framework to help the different countries with the evolution of this pandemic.

Phases 1 to 3 are related to the preparation of the health and political system to face the pandemic. On the other hand, phases 4 to 6 already indicate an alert about the needs of response and mitigation measures. Let’s take a closer look at each of the phases:

– Phase one : the specialists who are in charge of epidemiological surveillance know that a certain virus began to circulate among wild and domestic animals and that it could cause a pandemic. During this house there are still no known cases in humans.

– Phase two : this phase is characterized by the circulation among domestic or wild animals of an animal flu virus that has generated human infections, which is why it is considered a possible threat of a pandemic.

– Phase three: during phase three the virus has already caused infection in humans. Sporadic or group cases of the disease are generated but without the existence of strong transmission to generate global outbreaks

– Phase Four: During this phase, it is considered that the verified human-to-human transmission of the virus is already capable of causing outbreaks at the community level. This stage marks an increased risk of a pandemic. Any country that suspects this situation should inform the World Health Organization to assess the situation jointly and make the appropriate decisions quickly.

-Phase five: during this phase there is already a spread of the virus from person to person in at least two countries in a region of the World Health Organization. The declaration of this phase is already a strong sign of an impending pandemic.

-Phase six: the pandemic has already been declared. Community-level outbreaks occur in at least one other country in a different WHO region.

What is an epidemic?

An epidemic is known as a disease that extends for a certain period in an area and affects a large number of people. The word epidemic derives from the Greek ἐπιδημία.

When referring to an epidemic it is also called an outbreak, mainly when it refers to the appearance of a highly infectious disease in a certain place. During an epidemic, an increase in cases is generated followed by a peak with a subsequent decrease. A clear example is the case of the flu, where infections increase in the autumn and winter months, reaching the maximum number of infections, decreasing notably during the spring and summer months.

Regarding the reasons why a disease spreads in a certain population, they can be very varied: poor health, living and hygiene conditions, natural or human-caused disasters, among others.

The science that is responsible for studying epidemics is epidemiology , and it deals with analyzing the causes, manifestations and effects that these diseases cause within a given population.

Examples of epidemics

Some of the best known epidemics that have manifested over the years are:

– Influenza epidemic : it was caused by the influenza virus or flu. It is a respiratory disease that affects humans. Influenza A in its AH1N1 variant is fatal in some cases and caused a pandemic in 2009 and 2010 that caused more than 19,000 deaths worldwide.

– Cholera epidemic: Cholera has caused epidemics throughout the world over the years. One of the most devastating cases was the cholera outbreak that occurred in Indonesia in 1961, this outbreak later became a pandemic.

Consequences of an epidemic

Among the main consequences that an epidemic generates are the health problems and even deaths that it causes in the inhabitants of the population. In addition, these epidemics generate social alarms that cause isolation and social and economic disorganization in the most affected areas.

Differences between pandemic and epidemic

The pandemic is the worldwide spread of an epidemic. It is for this reason that pandemics are also known as global or global epidemics.

As we detailed, epidemics are outbreaks of a specific disease at the local level, it is a specific area. When these viruses or diseases take epidemiological characteristics different from those known and spread through different regions, this is what we call pandemics.

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