Epidemic vs pandemic

  • Epidemic and pandemic are words that sound similar but have slightly different meanings. We will examine the definitions of the words epidemic and pandemic, where these terms came from and some examples of their use in sentences.


    As an adjective, epidemic describes diseases and conditions that spread rapidly and extensively by infection and affect many people at the same time, and it’s used figuratively to describe widely prevalent things other than infectious diseases. It also doubles as a noun referring to deseases or conditions that spread rapidly. By its scientific definition, epidemic only applies to infectious diseases and not to, say, obesity, beetles, or laptop theft, but such figurative, nonscientific use is common. The word epidemic is derived from the Greek word epidemia, from the words epi meaning among and demos meaning people.


    Pandemic refers to an infectious disease that spreads over the entire world in a rapid manner. Pandemic is also used as an adjective or a noun. Pandemic may be used in a figurative manner, but at this time it is nearly exclusively used to mean an infectious disease. The word pandemic is derived from the Greek word pandemos, from the words pan meaning all and demos meaning people.


    While this year’s epidemic is still shy of the devastating death toll seen in 2014/2015, officials warn the rate of cases is severe, and this season looks set to be the second-worst on record. (The Daily Mail)

    The program was developed to improve the communication and response time when students are involved in traumatic situations at home due to the opioid epidemic. (The Martinsburg Journal)

    This year marks the 100th anniversary of the great influenza pandemic of 1918. (The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

    An expert has described the outbreak as “more severe” than the Swine flu pandemic in 2009, and the NHS, alongside other health organisations, have offered advice to those struck down by the illness over how best to deal with it. (The Express)

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