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What is the difference between "pandemic" and "epidemic?

    We are seeing and hearing these words very often in the news in recent discussion of the outbreak and spread of coronavirus.  

    When the coronavirus crisis began, it was called an "epidemic" or an "outbreak."

    After it spread across the whole world, the World Health Organization (WHO) decided to call it a "pandemic" on March 11.

    The same thing is true of the words "comic" and "academic" – they are used as both nouns and adjectives. For example: The Centers for Disease Control confirmed that the flu has now reached epidemic proportions across the U.S.

    When we use it as an adjective, "epidemic" is often followed by the word "proportions." Together, this means the size of the group of people affected is very large. 

    These days, you might hear people use "epidemic" to talk about a non-medical problem, such as: There was an epidemic of crime in the city.

    Merriam Webster Dictionary tells us that our word "pandemic" comes from two Greek word parts: pan- for "all" or "every" and demos for "people." Medical writers use this word to talk about an illness that affects almost everyone in a country or that crosses borders to affect people in many countries.

    On March 11, 2020, WHO’s director-general said, "Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly." He was reminding people that the word is used only for the most extreme and dangerous situations.

    To use these terms, the main thing you should remember is that a pandemic is much worse than an epidemic.

    A pandemic is a type of epidemic, but you cannot say that an epidemic is a type of pandemic.

    And people rarely use "pandemic" to talk about a non-medical problem, as we mentioned earlier with "epidemic."



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