Pandemic is one of the most extensively used words in 2020, thanks to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. The worldwide outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 infection has increased the concern of many individuals on this topic. However, people often use the terms epidemic, pandemic, and outbreak interchangeably, despite having a marked difference. Consider this write-up if you want to know the meaning and significance of a pandemic.
What is a Pandemic?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a pandemic is an epidemic occurring over a vast area. The infection emerges suddenly and quickly crosses over geographical barriers and international boundaries. It is challenging to control the pandemic because medical professionals do not have sufficient data regarding its treatment and preventive measures.
Moreover, people also lack immunity against such outbreaks. The morbidity and mortality rates are thus exceptionally high. Pandemics often lead to significant social, economic, and even political disruption.
What are the Different Phases of a Pandemic?
The WHO determines the various phases of infection and announces whether it can develop into a pandemic. The stages include:
• Phase 1- In this stage, the zoonotic virus (originating in animals) only circulates among animals. There are no known cases of human transmission. Phase 1 is rarely a threat as there are minimal chances of developing into a pandemic.
• Phase 2- During phase 2, there is some evidence of a new animal virus causing infections in human beings. Medical professionals start taking the disease seriously as there is a potential risk of a pandemic.
• Phase 3- In this phase, the zoonotic virus has already infected a small group of human beings. It suggests that animal to human transmission is possible in the infection. However, human to human transmission is negligible to risk a community outbreak.
• Phase 4- During phase 4, human-to-human transmission reaches considerable strength, thereby increasing community spread risk. If an infection reaches phase 4, there is a high probability of a future pandemic.
• Phase 5- In stage 5, the virus is already prevalent in at least two countries within the WHO supervised zones. From this point, a global pandemic is unavoidable.
• Phase 6- Now, the infection also gets detected in at least one additional country other than the already reported ones. Phase 6 of the disease is known as the pandemic stage. It signals the onset of the global pandemic, and health professionals across countries are put on high alert to control it.
What is the Difference Between an Epidemic, Pandemic, Endemic, and an Outbreak?
Though pandemic and epidemic are related terms, there is a difference based on the nature of the infection’s spread.
Epidemic- An epidemic is a high prevalence of a disease restricted to a single geographical area or only one country, like the Kivu Ebola epidemic between 2018 to 2020.
Pandemic- A pandemic is detecting infection in at least three countries within the WHO supervised region, like the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Endemic- An endemic is a disease specifically found among a group of the population, like malaria in some African countries.
Outbreak- An outbreak is a spike in disease within an area, like the Nipah virus in Kerala in 2018. It can be related to an infectious or a non-infectious medical issue.
What are the Protective Measures During a Pandemic?
A pandemic can lead to multiple uncertainties in society. It is crucial to stay calm and implement the following protective measures to stay healthy during the crisis.
- Remain Updated About new Reports and Health Protocols
Follow the websites and news reports of reputed health agencies like the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It will help you stay updated about the latest development of the pandemic and its protective measures. You may also follow the local news site to know the latest status, including the total number of cases and recovery rate in your locality.
- Stock Essential Commodities in the House for Two Weeks
Pandemics often lead to quarantines and extended lockdowns to arrest the spread of the infection. It may even disrupt the vital commodities supply chain due to vehicular movement restrictions. So, it is better to stock essential food products for two weeks. However, do not resort to hoarding as it can cause unnecessary scarcity of food items in your area.
- Pay Attention to Your Prescriptions
If you have any chronic medical conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, or asthma, do not forget to visit pharmacies for necessary medical supplies. You may also purchase a few over-the-counter medications for fever, cough-cold, stomach ache, and diarrhoea. It will bail you out during emergencies.
- Chart-out a Health Plan for Illness
There is a feeble chance of getting infected, despite following all safety protocols. Keep a plan of action ready, including names and phone numbers of friends and family doctors who will help you get admitted to hospitals. Look for organisations like Ketto to crowdfund high medical bills.
Notable Pandemics in the Past Century
Covid-19 is not the first pandemic to strike humanity. Here is a list of crucial pandemics in the past century.
- 1918 Flu Pandemic
The 1918 flu pandemic is also known as the “Spanish Flu” and was prevalent between 1918 to 1920. It resulted in 50 to 100 million deaths globally. The H1N1 virus transmitted the infection from birds to human beings.
- Swine Flu (2009)
In 2009, the swine flu pandemic claimed between 151,700 and 575,400 in various countries. The H1N1 virus was also responsible for this highly contagious infection, and it got transmitted from pigs to human beings.
- Ebola (2014–2016)
Ebola was another deadly virus, detected in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976. It causes a hemorrhagic fever, transmitted from bats to human beings. Between 2014 to 2016, it claimed about 11300 lives across eight countries of West Africa.
- COVID-19 (2019–ongoing)
The SARS-CoV-2 virus is responsible for the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, therefore resulting in more than 1682500 deaths until now. Common symptoms include fever, dry cough, extreme fatigue, and respiratory distress among patients. The United States of America, India, Brazil, and Russia are some of the most affected countries by this pandemic.
Finally, we can say that there is a risk of developing a pandemic during a new disease detection. However, world bodies like the WHO and CDC are working round-the-clock to minimise their occurrences and develop preventive measures.