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Image Thumbnail Pandemic, Epidemic, Endemic, Outbreak - What’s the difference

Pandemic, Epidemic, Endemic, Outbreak: What’s the difference?

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Epidemic v. Pandemic what should you use? We have been listening to these words being

used on and off regularly. We don’t know what is what? We were referring to

COVID-19 as an epidemic initially and suddenly changed it to a pandemic. Why? So

what are pandemic, epidemic, and endemic? Are they different or the same?

These words have origin in the Greek language. All these words end with ‘–demic’, which means ‘people belonging to a particular area’. The answer to what are these words is pretty simple. The scarier they sound, the scarier the situation is.


A pandemic by definition is a disease that spread all over the world, in several different

countries. Simple? Simple! It is basically an epidemic that spread over a huge

area or internationally.

The word pandemic finds its origin in Latin and found its way in English in the 1600s. It literally means ‘common public’. WHO changed the status of COVID-19 in March from an epidemic to a pandemic for the same reason. Since COVID-19 spread over different countries it is now called a pandemic.


An epidemic is an infectious disease that spreads from person to person. This usually happens in a particular place. It is temporary in nature.    

Any problem that goes out of control is usually referred to as an epidemic. An epidemic is a disease that spreads actively around the local area where it began.

The Zika virus, Ebola, SARS are an example of an epidemic.


An endemic is something that is present in a location constantly. For example, Malaria is endemic in many parts of Africa or Ice is endemic to Greenland. It is not necessary that endemic is used in the context of a disease.


The outbreak is an adjective used for something that suddenly occurs. When a disease erupts suddenly and spreads to a lot of people is an outbreak. An outbreak can also be used as a noun. For example an acne outbreak.

The Difference 

The difference in all these terms is the intensity. If a disease spreads internationally, it is a pandemic. If the disease is a local infectious disease then it is an epidemic. Something found locally is endemic. And finally,

The sudden eruption of anything is an outbreak.

What about Coronavirus?

Coronavirus is an epidemic, pandemic, and outbreak altogether. However, at this point in time, it is best to call it a pandemic since it has spread internationally. Governments all over the world are conducting extensive tests, isolations, and lockdowns to prevent the further spread of this disease. It is advised to wash hands every 20 minutes and wear a mask while stepping out of the house.

That was the difference between these words. It is not that difficult to remember. However, what is difficult is to remember to wash your hands and sanitize your phone and laptop. After this read and enlightenment, we request you to go clean these and stay inside. Find new ways and even more things to differentiate between on our site!

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Jui Shirvalkar-Chandurkar

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