What is the Difference Between Epidemic and Pandemic?

Pandemic vs Epidemic

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There are many terms that are continually being confused across the entire population, one of which is an epidemic versus a pandemic. There are a few similarities between an epidemic and a pandemic, but there are also key differences that make the two very different. Knowing how to differentiate the two will help you better understand the world of diseases.

What is an Epidemic?

An epidemic is a sharp, general increase in the occurrence of some infectious disease with expanding spread over a large area within a short period of time. An epidemic is a widespread outbreak of an infectious disease which affects many people at the same time.

What is a Pandemic?

A pandemic is a disease that affects many people of the same species or type in the entire world. An epidemic is just a strain at the country level spread through an entire region. That sounds dramatic, but there is just one symptom. It’s not a pretty one. Among the worst disasters in recorded history were two pandemics: the Plague of Athens, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis in 542 BC; and the Black Death, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis during 14th century Europe.

Pandemic is also known as a viral disease outbreak, but pandemics happen when the number of cases increase beyond a specific population in developed regions and spreads to other countries, regions and continents.

Differences Between Epidemic and Pandemic

  • Epidemic typically refers to a number of people with a contagious disease who sicken or die in the same area. Pandemic normally means that the virus is there throughout the world and everyone is not just in the same group of countries.
  • An epidemic is the spread of an infectious disease over a wider area. A pandemic is an intense outbreak of a contagious disease that occurs on a global scale. For example, there was the West Nile virus during the summer of 2003-2004, which spread quickly and killed lots of people who were being affected by high fever, body aches and muscle paralysis. On the other hand, Ebola is referred to as a pandemic because it is found in several different countries – in West Africa it kills upwards of 70% of those infected.
  • A pandemic is almost always caused by a new communicable disease, while an epidemic usually affects a group of pathogens that have recently changed up their tactics and are able to attack more people. An epidemic can be very widespread and public, but it’s not nearly as contagious as a pandemic.
  • A pandemic is an outbreak of illness by a new infectious disease. It spreads rapidly, is usually deadly, and triggers worldwide concern that many people could die or be injured and spread the disease to other people. An epidemic is when multiple illnesses attack a group at once. An example would be when cholera was causing an epidemic in Haiti in 2010. Pandemic is Covid-19.

Who’s at Risk During an Epidemic/Pandemic?

  • An ‘epidemic’ is the incidence of a disease that breaks out, statistically causing an excess in the number of people who are infected. An ‘epidemic’ can be caused by many factors and in different ways. While the terms “epidemic” and “pandemic” are often used interchangeably, they have different connotations.
  • “Pandemic” is a suffix used to describe a disease which spreads rapidly and infects everyone while an “epidemic” refers to cases of a certain disease that number in the thousands. There are two types of pandemics: epidemic and pandemic.
  • An epidemic is a disease that has reached a population in one area while a pandemic is much larger and is spread across the whole world.
  • The difference between them is how quickly they reach the population. In an epidemic, the outbreak begins or reaches a small group of individuals before it spreads throughout the whole group of people with the same illness or condition. In a pandemic, the outbreak might start in one country before it spreads to all countries around the world because two countries might introduce contaminated materials into a third country by mistake.


In order to understand the difference between an epidemic and a pandemic, it is important to understand the world at large. An epidemic is a sudden and widespread occurrence of an infectious disease within a community or in a region. Pandemics are any epidemics that are caused by new strains of an old disease as well as those epidemics that can happen anywhere.

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