According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are very distinct differences between an outbreak, epidemic, and pandemic.
The CDC explains that an outbreak is an increase in cases of a disease above what’s normally expected in a certain area. The increase is often sudden.
An epidemic is much like an outbreak, but for people within a larger region. The two terms differ only in degree.
A pandemic is an epidemic that’s spread over several countries or continents and affects a large percent of the population.
It’s important to note that this isn’t used to indicate the severity of a disease, only the degree to which it’s spreading.
The last time a pandemic was declared was 11 years ago.
In June 2009, the WHO H1N1 (swine) flu a pandemic. By August 2010, it was announced a “post-pandemic period.”
“It’s important for the public to understand that the declaration is not necessarily connected to a specific event that increased the overall risk to the population,” said Jennifer A. Horney, PhD, professor and founding director of the epidemiology program at College of Health Sciences at the University of Delaware.
“It’s an action that allows for the expansion of administrative capacity of national and global public health agencies that can contribute to the response,” she said.
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