Pandemic: What is It?
Over the past couple of weeks, you may have heard the word “pandemic” being used to describe the COVID-19 virus. With the number of cases increasing daily and new safety measures being put into place, you may wonder, what exactly is a pandemic and how does it affect you?
A pandemic is an illness that affects a large portion of the world’s population, spreading over countries and even continents. On the other hand, an epidemic is when an illness is actively spreading within a specific region or area.
The word pandemic originates from the Greek word ‘pandemos.’ If you break down the word ‘pandemos,’ the beginning of the word ‘pan’ means everyone, with the last part ‘demos’ meaning population. Everyone who is exposed to the illness will have some impact on the general population, with the illness spreading at a faster than normal rate, not able to be contained in the specific area it originated from.
So, who exactly determines when an illness is considered a pandemic?
The World Health Organization, also known as “WHO.” With headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the World Health Organization is a “specialized agency of the United Nations” overseeing health issues worldwide. The Organization was founded on April 7th, 1948, which is now known as World Health Day.
On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. As days and months passed by, things quickly began to change with the virus spreading and cases increasing from hundreds to thousands right before our eyes. From large outbreaks in China, South Korea, the Italy and US, it would be only a matter of time before this global health emergency turned into a pandemic.
On March 11, 2020, the WHO officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic. On that day there were over 100,000 cases in over 100 countries. Dr. Tedros Adhanom, the director general of the WHO, tweeted that the organization had been evaluating the outbreak each step of the way and became deeply concerned” by not only the quick spread of the virus, but also the severity and lack of action to contain the virus.
While the virus is new to us all, pandemics are not, as they have been a part of our history for centuries. Some pandemics you may have heard of include the Spanish flu, Asian Flu, Hong Kong Flu, Smallpox, HIV/AIDs, and Swine Flu, which was the most recent pandemic before COVID-19. These pandemics have unfortunately claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands and sometimes even millions of people.
With researchers and scientists working their hardest to find vaccines and treatments, healthcare is forever changing to help save the lives of those infected. As new treatments start to arise, patients will be asked to join clinical trials to see just how effective the new treatments are. With the help of clinical trials, we can help stop the spread of the virus, putting a halt to not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but to others that may arise in the future.