Epidemic vs. Pandemic vs. Endemic

By Maeve Maddox

The dreadful outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa has made headlines like these a daily sight in newspapers and on news sites all over the world:

Ebola Epidemic Ravages West Africa

Leave endemic Ebola zones – Germany tells nationals

Americans fear pandemic as Ebola patients evacuate to Atlanta

The element dem in epidemic, endemic, and pandemic comes from the ancient Greek word demos, which meant people or district:

epi (among) + demos = epidemic
en (in) + demos = endemic
pan (all) + demos = pandemic

An epidemic is a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time:

Annual influenza epidemics follow a winter seasonal pattern in the United States with typical activity peaking during late December to early February. 

An intense flu epidemic spreading across the nation has already taken a tragic toll in Michigan. 

H1N1 Flu Epidemic Fills Up Texas Hospital Beds And ERs

Endemic is an adjective that refers to a disease or condition regularly found among particular people or in a certain area.

In many malaria-endemic countries, malaria transmission does not occur in all parts of the country. 

Polio remains endemic in three countries – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.

Pertussis is endemic worldwide, even in areas with high vaccination rates.

A disease becomes pandemic when it spreads beyond a region to infect large numbers of people worldwide:

The Black Death was one of the worst pandemics in human history, killing at least 75 million people on three continents 

The Franco-Prussian War triggered a smallpox pandemic of 1870–1875 that claimed 500,000 lives.

The 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic [is] estimated as being responsible for the deaths of approximately 50 million people or more.

The word epidemic is also used to refer to an occurrence of any undesirable phenomenon:

Teen Prescription Drug Abuse: A National Epidemic

Don’t panic, the teenage pregnancy epidemic is over!

Factors Contributing to the Youth Violence Epidemic 

An Epidemic of Stupidity is Sweeping America

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