Epidemic and pandemic are two terminologies generally used to describe the spread of a particular communicable or non-communicable disease within a given population and geographic location over a short period. However, it is important to note that the specific uses of these two, and thus, their meanings are different.
What is the Difference Between an Epidemic and a Pandemic?
An epidemic is generally a public health incidence characterized by the rapid spread of a particular disease to a large number of individuals within a particular population and geographic location within two weeks or less.
Take note that an epidemic is usually restricted within a single and smaller geographic scope such as a city, metropolitan area, province or region, and country. However, if the infectious disease spreads to a larger geographic area such from other countries and continents, then the incidence is termed as a pandemic.
Hence, a pandemic is essentially an epidemic of disease that spreads across a large geographic area, often across neighboring countries or within a continent, multiple continents, and even across the globe.
It is worth highlighting the fact that both epidemic and pandemic can either be a communicable disease such as the outbreak of a viral or bacterial infection or a non-communicable disease such as in the case of the high prevalence of cancer, obesity, and even mental health problems.
Furthermore, both are not limited to the human population alone. These incidences can also occur in critical agricultural organisms such as crop plants, trees, livestock, and marine creatures.
Notable examples of epidemics throughout history include the bubonic plague in Egypt in 1801, the Hong Kong flu of 1968 and 1979, and the 2006 dengue fever in the Philippines. On the other hand, some examples of prominent pandemics include the current HIV/AIDS global pandemic, the 2013-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the Black Death of 1331 to 1353.
Based on the discussion above, the difference between an epidemic and pandemic centers on scope, particularly the number of people affected within a population, as well as in consideration of the size of the geographic area and geopolitical boundaries.