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The epidemiological term, epidemic is defined for a condition that is normally rare in a population but in a short space of time has become widespread 1. It may refer to both infectious diseases (for example, Zika virus epidemic in Brazil 6) but also other conditions, e.g. the obesity epidemic.
For example, when COVID-19 was first detected in Wuhan it was a new infection restricted to a few individuals, however it rapidly became epidemic as it spread throughout the city, the province and then China. As the epidemic went global it became a pandemic, which is - in essence - an extensive epidemic. In time, COVID-19 will likely become endemic.
History and etymology
Epidemic is derived from the Classical Greek, ἐπί (epi) meaning "near/upon/above" and δῆμος (demos) meaning "people". From the same origin comes words like epidemiology.
Epidemics in literature
- The Iliad by Homer 4
- The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio 2
- The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni 3
- The Scarlet plague by Jack London 5
- 1. Michael Peters. British Medical Association Illustrated Medical Dictionary. (2018) ISBN: 9780241317716
- 2. Giovanni Boccaccio. The Decameron. (2003) ISBN: 9780140449303
- 3. Alessandro Manzoni. The Betrothed. (1972) ISBN: 9780140442748
- 4. Homer. The Iliad. (1998) ISBN: 9780140275360
- 5. Riva MA, Benedetti M, Cesana G. Pandemic fear and literature: observations from Jack London's The Scarlet Plague. (2014) Emerging infectious diseases. 20 (10): 1753-7. doi:10.3201/eid2010.130278 - Pubmed
- 6. Avelino SV, Avelino KE, Avelino. Untold Stories of the Zika Virus Epidemic in Brazil. (2018) Reviews in medical virology. doi:10.1002/rmv.2000 - Pubmed