On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) a public health emergency of international concern. The media started talking outbreaks and epidemics interchangeably. Then, on March 11, the WHO declared the coronavirus a pandemic. Now a second wave of infections has hit and people are locked down again. So what is the difference between a pandemic, an epidemic, and an outbreak?
What Is an Outbreak?
An outbreak typically initiates in a specific geographic area like a city, province, or state. It is limited to a very small area and it primarily looks like an infection that has been transmitted through person-to-person contact or animal-to-person contact without any prior record.
Experts say the coronavirus outbreak started in the Chinese port city of Wuhan on the 31st of December. This was when medical professionals detected flu-like symptoms and pneumonia in several citizens.
This was immediately alerted to the WHO. The new year commenced the screening of passengers arriving at the local airport, and the local seafood market was shut down. China witnessed its first death on January 11, 2020.
What Is an Epidemic?
An epidemic begins when there is a sudden increase and spread of the infection to a significantly large number of people within two weeks or less. The epidemic stage begins when infection or disease cannot be contained in the region where it initially began, and it starts spreading to the neighboring countries and provinces.
COVID-19 spread to Thailand, Japan, United States, Nepal, France, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan by January 13th due to international travel and trade. This made it an epidemic.
By the end of January:
- 259 deaths in China
- 11,791 new infections and new cases reported in the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, the UAE, Vietnam, and the Philippines
First week of February:
- 427 deaths in China
- 20,438 infections in China
- Reports of infected people in Estonia, Denmark, Northern Ireland, Netherlands, Belgium, Lithuania, Wales, Georgia, and Qatar
- Iran and Italy were worst hit outside of China
By the first week of March, cases were confirmed in Egypt, Israel, Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Norway, Romania, Greece, Georgia, Pakistan, North Macedonia, and Brazil.
Difference Between Pandemic & Epidemic
A pandemic is an epidemic that crosses borders and has an alarming effect globally. It begins when the health of millions of people are at a high risk in all the hemispheres and any climatic conditions. As the transmission progresses it becomes difficult to trace back cases to the outbreak region.
On March 11, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the COVID-19 as a global pandemic affecting 114 countries around the globe. This added Turkey, Ivory Coast, Honduras and Bolivia to its list. Meanwhile, the cases in Qatar significantly rose from 24 to 262 in a single day. Italy marked a historic milestone by confirming 475 new deaths on a single day on March 18, superseding China’s death toll.