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With the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) being declared as a pandemic, it pays to know what differs it from an outbreak and an epidemic.
The World Health Organization has recently declared the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as a pandemic. With this, what makes it different from when it was just an outbreak and an epidemic?
These medical terms are at the height of today’s public health crisis. So while the world grapples as it to wages war against the notorious COVID-19, knowing the difference between the three might help you.
Based on the definition by Merriam-Webster, an outbreak is “a sudden rise in the incidence of disease and typically is confined to a localized area or a specific group of people.” In the case of COVID-19, cases were first seen in Wuhan, Hubei province, in China. Back then, it was just an outbreak as the cases were in a limited geographical area.
Meanwhile, an epidemic, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defined it, is “an outbreak of disease that attacks many people at about the same time and may spread through one or several communities.” The coronavirus disease became an epidemic when the cases weren’t isolated in Wuhan anymore. The patients were found in provinces outside of the epicenter, and even in places outside of China’s border.
A pandemic is then described by the Centers for Disease Control Prevention as “an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people,” and this is the world’s current situation right now. COVID-19 has reached the shores of the United States of America, South America, Africa, Europe, Australia, and Asia.
The world has since seen the effects of pandemics. From the plagues, cholera, influenza, and HIV/AIDS, diseases threatening public health have always been in the course of history, and in each event, the pandemics show not only a country’s public health capability but also the world’s humanity.
In an article by the New Yorker, Frank M. Snowden, author of the book “Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present,” explained today’s fight against COVID-19 by saying, “We have to think that we have to work together as a human species to be organized to care for one another, to realize that the health of the most vulnerable people among us is a determining factor for the health of all of us, and, if we aren’t prepared to do that, we’ll never, ever be prepared to confront these devastating challenges to our humanity.”