Pandemic vs Endemic vs Epidemic
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Pandemic vs Endemic vs Epidemic — In this article, we’ll understand the terms and the differences between Pandemic, Endemic, and Epidemic.
The covid-19 pandemic started in 2020, and we are yet to come out of it. The infection started in a small place called Wuhan in China and spread to many countries quickly. Everyone hoped the pandemic would end in 2021, but the dice rolled out to an unexpected situation with the emergence of the Omicron variant. And now there is news that the pandemic can slowly turn into an endemic, causing occasional outbreaks. Many of us are now well-versed with certain medical terms, but let us now understand the terms Endemic, Epidemic and Pandemic in depth.
The Novel coronavirus is an excellent example to understand these terms.
In an endemic phase, the health condition or the disease is usually present in a community or a particular geographical area but at a certain baseline level.
The disease is present constantly in the community, somewhat contained, but it does not spread out of control. The rate at which the disease spreads is predictable. As a result, it does not overburden nor stress the health care systems.
Dengue in India: Dengue cases are present in the country irrespective of the season, but its spread isn’t out of control.
Flu infection: Flu cases are constantly present in the community and occasionally may lead to an outbreak.
Compared to the endemic phase, the disease or the health condition in an epidemic phase spreads to the larger population above a certain baseline level. The rise in the number of cases is unexpected and clearly above the expected levels of disease occurrence in the community. But the disease is still limited to a particular community or geographical area. For example, the SARS epidemic in India and the Smallpox and Polio epidemics in the US.
In the modern world, the rise in obesity is also considered an epidemic. However, it’s not contagious.
In a pandemic phase, the disease growth rate is exponential. It’s not limited to a particular geographical area and spreads to multiple countries and continents.
The main difference between an epidemic and a pandemic isn’t the severity of the disease but the extent of its spreadability.
Since larger geographical areas are affected in a pandemic, they cause socio-economic hardship, economic burden, and loss.
To summarize, if in a country of 1 million population, if the disease is in less than 1% population, it is endemic, but during winter, if the cases rise to 10% of the population, it is an epidemic. And if the same disease has spread to other countries, it is now considered a pandemic.
How Covid-19 Pandemic is turning to endemic
Earlier, scientists thought that achieving herd immunity could slow down their spreadability when enough people are either vaccinated or have recovered from natural infection.
Since we understand better now how the virus spreads, mutates and how immunity wanes off over time, it is difficult to eradicate the virus but one of the crucial steps to turn pandemic to endemic is through vaccination (with primary and booster doses) of the population. The new treatment options will also help us move in the right direction. Until then, we need to follow the safety protocol of maintaining social distancing, wearing face masks, and hand hygiene.
Read more about Covid-19: A Complete Reference Guide for Indians.
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