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The threat of pandemic flu is ever-present. A pandemic flu can arise when a new flu virus that hasn't affected humans before emerges, spreads and causes illness in humans. Pandemic Academic is a startup based in the Washington DC area founded by Dr Nishal Mohan in 2012. As consultants, Pandemic Academic provides unique solutions to public health problems using science, policy, technology, and digital marketing.

Novel concepts for health and security protection in the case of large-scale pandemics, validated by international organisations and a large number of EU Member States including a commitment to sharing these novel concepts.

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  • (of a disease) prevalent over a whole country or the world.

    ‘Sars has revealed much about the way a pandemic illness can affect modern society - with massive consequences.’
    • ‘Most topical is the risk of pandemic influenza, which seems to be the highest in three decades.’
    • ‘It is a remarkable achievement which increases Britain's ability to cope with pandemic flu, should it happen.’
    • ‘The effectiveness of antivirals in the treatment of pandemic influenza is unclear.’
    • ‘Imagine if you will you were a government which was aware of a global pandemic flu in the offing.’
    • ‘But pandemic influenza, appearing every few decades, has much more devastating consequences.’
    • ‘The arrival of a pandemic influenza would trigger a reaction that would change the world overnight.’
    • ‘It depends on what percentage of the population gets a pandemic flu strain.’
    • ‘The idea that this flu could reach pandemic proportions is a chilling thought.’
    • ‘Companies should prepare for a pandemic flu the way they would for a blizzard.’
    • ‘The factors involved in the genesis of each pandemic virus are probably different.’
    • ‘The Department of Health will also announce its revised pandemic flu contingency plan this week.’
    • ‘So why have British health authorities decided to launch a pandemic flu panic in Britain?’
    • ‘History has shown that pandemic strains of influenza viruses emerge as reassortants of human and avian viruses.’
    • ‘This argues for the need to look at other ways to respond to a new flu strain which has pandemic potential.’
    • ‘Even if nations vaccinate their entire populations, they will not remain immune to the pandemic shock.’
    widespread, prevalent, pervasive, rife, rampant, epidemic
    View synonyms


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  • An outbreak of a pandemic disease.

    ‘the results may have been skewed by an influenza pandemic’
    • ‘Influenza pandemics are global outbreaks that emerge infrequently and unpredictably.’
    • ‘Influenza epidemics and pandemics spread rapidly causing a high degree of morbidity and mortality.’
    • ‘In countries afflicted by epidemics and pandemics like malaria and tuberculosis, growth and development will be threatened until these scourges can be contained.’
    • ‘Influenza viruses cause frequent epidemics and periodic pandemics throughout the world due to antigenic variations.’
    • ‘Humans have lived with influenza viruses for centuries and we thought we knew all about their inter-host transmissions, antigenic shift, drift, epidemics, pandemics and vaccines.’
    • ‘The European settling of the Americas brought disease pandemics to the Native Americans that nearly eliminated them.’
    • ‘In the case of the avian flu pandemic threat, millions of lives are potentially at stake.’
    • ‘Is the Canadian plan to deal with the bird flu pandemic similar to that outlined by the president today?’
    • ‘It will say that if a widely anticipated European flu pandemic hits, unhygienic doctors will contribute to the spread of the virus.’
    • ‘Let's hope that this virus does not mutate and create a worldwide pandemic this winter.’
    • ‘It is to be hoped that they are available before the next pandemic strikes.’
    • ‘There is, however, going to be another influenza pandemic some time soon.’
    • ‘Last year, following a simulated exercise, the Ministry of Health developed a national pandemic plan.’
    • ‘Don't expect to be able to buy most of these things when the pandemic starts.’


On the difference between pandemic, endemic, and epidemic, see

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Mid 17th century from Greek pandēmos (from pan ‘all’ + dēmos ‘people’) + -ic.

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“An outbreak of this”, “epidemic of that”, “protect yourself against a potential pandemic of some horrible sounding disease”. Whether discussing disease in humans or animals, all are terms we hear on the news frequently, but do you know what the differences are between them? In this article, we take a look at the terminology used by epidemiologists and scientists to describe the occurrence and spread of disease.

Endemic disease

Endemic refers to a disease or the level of a disease which is present in a population or area all of the time, not as an exception to the rule. The endemic level is the baseline level of disease which is normal, although it may still not be the desirable level.

The causative agents of an outbreak, epidemic, or pandemic may be classed as endemic in a country, like human influenza for example in the UK. Something like Ebola or yellow fever though are not endemic in the UK, any case that might occur would be an exception, likely as a result of infection outside the UK. Diseases that are not endemic in certain areas (i.e. the base level of cases is zero) are normally as a result of environmental factors preventing survival or spread of the transmission vector (as with malaria), geographic isolation from infected areas (as with strangles in Iceland), tight control measures (such as for rabies in the UK) or vaccination and eradication strategies (as with smallpox).

If the endemic level of a disease in a population is persistently high, then It is referred to as hyperendemic.

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The term holoendemic refers to a disease with which essentially all individuals of a population are infected. However, it differs from hyperendemic disease in that typically, clinical signs are typically only shown in the younger population when they are first infected after which disease becomes asymptomatic.

Endemic vs epidemic

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Whilst “endemic” is the baseline level of a disease, an epidemic refers to the, often sudden, rise in the number of cases of a particular disease above the normal endemic level. The number of cases varies according to the disease-causing agent, and the size and type of previous and existing exposure to the agent. The precise definition will depend on the literature in which it is presented, and there is no established threshold for the number of cases, duration of disease or geographical area affected for something to be deemed an epidemic. Seasonal influenza in people is often described as a seasonal epidemic.

An epidemic of what is typically an endemic disease can arise for a number of reasons. Many factors relating to the host, cause of disease and environment contribute to the normal fine balance, so a shift in any of these may result in spikes in case numbers. Equally, a disease that was previously absent from an area or population may become endemic following an epidemic if these factors change. For example, changes in the environment may mean that a disease vector that previously was unable to survive in an area now can, as seen with malaria. Increased exposure to disease may change the immunological landscape of the host. The disease-causing pathogen may undergo mutations that mean it becomes better adapted to surviving in a new host population, as seen with the spread of zoonotic diseases.

Outbreak definition – or just an epidemic synonym?

The terms “epidemic” and “outbreak” are used interchangeably frequently, even in epidemiological and scientific literature. However for the purposes of risk communication to the general public, it has been proposed that the term “outbreak“ should be used to describe a more limited type of epidemic. If a disease is normally absent from a particular community, then even a single case may be classed as an outbreak. An epidemic is very similar to an outbreak and may often start out as an outbreak, but “epidemic” is typically used in the context of a disease which spreads through a population rapidly. The severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2003 is a typical example.

Epidemic vs pandemic

A pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease or a strain of an existing disease to which the majority of the population have no immunity. It is effectively an epidemic on a global scale. The 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which ripped across the globe following World War I, is a typical example of a pandemic but there are countless examples through history.

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If a disease reaches pandemics levels it can be devastating. Therefore government and health organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have strategies in place for monitoring disease cases. This can facilitate early detection and allow the mobilization of mitigation strategies such as vaccination, screening and movement restrictions. Issues such as the rise of antibiotic resistance, changes to our climate and the ever-increasing international movement of people and animals can make preventing pandemics all the harder.

Pandemics Table

The below table gives examples of just some previous pandemics.

Causative agent
Spanish Flu
Influenza A virus
50 million
Unlike seasonal flu, the young, fit and healthy were worst affected
The Great Plague
Yersinia pestis
Mid 1300s
75-200 million
Got its alternative name “black death” thanks to the black patches that appeared on the skin of those infected
6th Cholera Pandemic
Vibrio cholerae
Lessons learnt in earlier cholera pandemics meant the death toll was much lower than it otherwise might have been
Fiji Measles Pandemic
Rubeola virus
Fijian royalty took the disease back to their island following a visit to Australia where the disease was rife. Consequently, one-third of Fiji’s population died
Smallpox PandemicVariola virus
Over 500,000
Thought to be triggered by the Franco-Prussian war, incidence and fatality rates were notably lower in the UK attributed to the Vaccination Act of 1853
Tuberculosis (TB)
Mycobacterium tuberculosis
1.6 million in 2017
In 2017, 10 million people contracted TB. Multi-drug resistance remains a significant concern