Let’s talk words. They don’t mean much in this context.
As the Bard said: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. This time we are talking about its thorny dangers, not its divine fragrance.
EPIDEMIC versus PANDEMIC
The World Health Organization (WHO) is now using the term pandemic to describe the worldwide spread of the novel coronavirus induced infection, COVID-19.
Let me start by saying that this should make no real difference to us. Viruses never respected international borders and calling it a pandemic does not increase our risk.
An epidemic is a sudden and significant increase in the number of cases of a disease.
The two prior and likely more virulent coronavirus outbreaks, SARS and MERS were epidemics because though the high number of cases was unexpectedly high, the spread was controlled.
A pandemic refers to an epidemic that involves many countries and/or most continents. It usually, but not always affects a large number of people.
The flu is the best-known pandemic disease with the 1918-1919 influenza spreading worldwide, infecting one in four people alive at the time or about 500,000,000 and killing about 10% of them or 50,000,000 souls before it died out.
CORONAVIRUS versus COVID-19
The coronavirus is a spiky RNA virus that looks a little like a crown under the electronic microscope and causes the common cold and more severe acute respiratory infections. It can mutate rapidly and may jump from one species to another.
To be precise, Covid-19 is short for coronavirus disease 2019 not for the name of the virus itself. The disease is caused by the novel virus, SARS-CoV-2 or the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome CoronaVirus 2 that first emerged in Wuhan, China in late 2019. It is very similar to a coronavirus found in pangolins that are smuggled into China for their scales used in traditional Chinese medicine. We really don’t know where SARS-CoV-2 exactly originated, but it is also quite similar to SARS-CoV that caused the 2002-3 SARS outbreak.
Brian Koffman MDCM (retired) MS Ed
Co-Founder, Executive VP and Chief Medical Officer
CLL Society, Inc.