epidemic of infectious disease that has spread across a large region with global health impact

A pandemic (from Greek παν pan all + δήμος demos people) is an epidemic (an outbreak of an infectious disease) that spreads across a large region (like a continent), or even worldwide.

The burial of plague victims in Tournai. Fragment of a miniature from "The Chronicles of Gilles Li Muisis" (1272-1352), abbot of the monastery of St. Martin of the Righteous. Bibliothèque royale de Belgique, MS 13076-77, f. 24v.

Common killers and pandemics change

According to the World Health Organization, a pandemic exists when three conditions have been met:

  • A disease emerges that is new to a population.
  • The agent that causes the disease infects humans, causing serious illness.
  • The agent spreads easily and sustainably among humans.

A disease or condition is not a pandemic merely because it is widespread or kills many people. It must also be infectious. For example, cancer causes many deaths, but it is not a pandemic because it is usually not infectious.

World Health Organization pandemic phases change

The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed a plan to prepare the global fight against influenza. It defines the stages of a pandemic and makes recommendations about what countries should do before and during a pandemic. The phases are:

Interpandemic period:

  • Phase 1: No new influenza virus subtypes have been detected in humans.
  • Phase 2: No new influenza virus subtypes have been detected in humans. However, a variant of the virus causes disease in animals. This means there is a threat of human disease.

Pandemic alert period:

  • Phase 3: Humans get infected with a new subtype of the flu virus. However, the virus is not spreading from person to person.
  • Phase 4: There are small cluster(s) of flu infection. Person-to-person spread is limited and localized.
  • Phase 5: There are larger cluster(s) of flu infection. Person-to-person spread is still localized.

Pandemic period:

  • Phase 6: Pandemic: The flu has spread throughout the general population. Person-to-person spread is increased and sustained..

Related pages change

References change

  • Steward's "The Next Global Threat: Pandemic Influenza".

Other websites change