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Epidemic, Pandemic & Endemic – What’s the Difference?

Pandemic, the word has become a new normal for us these days. The whole world is going through a period of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. But what is a Pandemic? You might have heard the word Epidemic as well. A lot of people confuse the two. There’s another word called Endemic. What does that mean? What kind of situations can be appropriately described using these words? What’s the relation between these three words? Let’s discuss that in this article.

Epidemic: The word epidemic has been derived from the Greek word ‘epi’ meaning upon or above and ‘demos’ meaning people. In simple words, when a disease spreads to a large number of people within a very short time in a particular region, the word epidemic is used to describe that situation. The term epidemic is used both in the case of infectious disease as well as any other disease that causes a serious health condition to a large number of people.

The spreading of Ebola virus in West Africa in 2014 was an example of an epidemic. It was limited to the West African region, mainly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. It was one of the deadly viruses with an average fatality rate of 50%.

Pandemic: The word pandemic has been derived from the Greek word ‘pan’ meaning all and ‘demos’ meaning people. In simple words, when the epidemic becomes global or spread across continents, it becomes a pandemic.

For instance, when the COVID-19 was limited only to Wuhan province of China, it was called an epidemic. When it crossed the boundaries of multiple countries and became global, it turned into a pandemic.

The bubonic plague of 1347, commonly known as Black Death is one of the worst pandemics in human history with a death toll ranging between 75 to 200 million.

The flu pandemic of 1918, also known as Spanish Flu, is the deadliest pandemic in modern times, where around 500 million people were infected, with death toll ranging between 20 to 50 million.

Endemic: The word endemic comes from the Greek word ‘en’ meaning in and ‘demos’ meaning people. The term endemic is used to describe a disease that is unique to a particular region or a disease that is confined to a particular boundary and can be seen every year.

For instance, Caribbean Dengue is endemic in the Caribbean islands. AIDS is endemic in many countries in Africa.


Epidemic – When a disease that affects a large number of people in a particular area.

Pandemic – When a disease affects people all over the world. In short, when the epidemic becomes global.

Endemic – When a disease is confined to a particular region and affects the people of that region every year.

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