During times of health crises, you may hear certain terms being used to describe a current situation going on. Words such as endemic, epidemic, and pandemic may be used by news reporters or writers covering a topic. So, what’s the difference between them all?
An endemic is when a disease or infection is constantly seen or reappearing in a specific geographic area or region.
Malaria is an endemic in many parts of Africa. The life-threatening disease is “transmitted through the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito.” Through the bite, Plasmodium parasites travel inside a person’s body, infecting blood cells.
When there is an increase in the number of cases of people becoming infected with a disease across a wide population, it becomes an epidemic. The word epidemic stems from the Greek word epidḗmios, meaning “within the country, among the people.”
Epidemics are usually caused by subtypes of an already circulating virus spreading from person to person.
Yellow Fever, also known as the “American plague,” was an epidemic that occurred in Philadelphia in the year 1793. The viral disease would leave those infected with symptoms including muscle pain, fever, and jaundice, the yellowing of not only a person’s skin but also their eyes.
When a disease spreads worldwide, affecting many people, it becomes a pandemic. The word pandemic stems from the Greek word pandēmos, meaning “of all people.” The first part, “pan,” means “all, very” and “demos” means “people.”
Pandemics are generally caused by new strains of a virus or a subtype that can spread from human to human.
The novel Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is the most current pandemic to infect thousands worldwide. As of March 27th, there are over 20,000 deaths with the virus spreading over 200 areas globally.
Now, while the terms endemic, epidemic, and pandemic may have different meanings, the end goal for all is the same, to find a treatment and to hopefully cure all infected with the disease.
Clinical trials not only help discover new treatments for disease but also help decrease the chance of the disease developing for generations to come.
By: Ashley Pure