Did You Know

What is the Difference Between Pandemic and Epidemic?

Although they are sometimes used interchangeably, there is a difference between pandemic and epidemic.


When there is a disease outbreak, the most worrying thing is its ability to spread to other areas. Some diseases spread form once country to another while others remain restricted to the origin of the outbreak. A disease that spreads across different nations is called a pandemic whereas an illness that affects a larger population than expected but remains restricted to the place of origin is called an epidemic. To get an in-depth understanding of these two terms, we will define each separately.

What is Epidemic?

Consistency is a common factor that characterizes a disease. Some diseases can spread very fast and can grow beyond the expected number of individuals over a given place and time. An epidemic is the occurrence of a disease that affects a large proportion of the population over a wide geographical area at a given time.

What is Pandemic?

A pandemic is the spread of an epidemic globally. According to the World Health Organization, for a disease occurrence to be termed a pandemic it should meet two conditions. One, it must spread worldwide from one nation to another. Secondly, the occurrence of the disease must be seen which means the people who are diseased must show signs.

The Difference Between a Pandemic and an Epidemic

Based on the definitions of each term above, we are able to differentiate the two. Firstly, an epidemic is an infectious, contagious, or viral disease that affects many individuals in a specific area. For example, if an outbreak of the swine flu took place in China, it would be termed an epidemic so long as the disease is restricted to China. An epidemic occurrence is in excess of the usually expected cases for a particular illness or infection.

On the other hand, during a pandemic the infectious, contagious, or the viral disease spreads outside the country in which the outbreak occurred. According to the World Health Organization, a pandemic can affect thousands to millions people in various parts of the world.

Examples of Epidemic and Pandemic

Firstly, let us see an epidemic example. In 1976, Ebola was discovered in Africa for the first time. The viral disease is thought to have originated from either gorillas, fruit bats, or chimpanzees. From then onwards, outbreaks of the disease has been common. However, the 2014 outbreak, which started in West Africa, spread across the West Africa region. The epidemic killed thousands of people claiming the lives of fifty to ninety percent of those infected.

Now let us look at a pandemic example. In 1918, towards the end of the First World War, a unique flu virus named the Spanish Flu was discovered in one of the United States military stations in Kansas. Only six months after the discovery, the virus had spread to other parts of the world, and it is estimated to have killed between 20 to 100 million people. It is believed that over 500 million people worldwide contracted the disease.


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