Last revised by Daniel J Bell on 6 Jan 2021

The epidemiological termpandemic is applied to an outbreak of disease that has spread across the globe, or in other words, an epidemic that has crossed many regions, borders and multiple continents. Some of the largest pandemics in history include the bubonic plague in the 14th century and the Spanish influenza of the early 20th century. More recent examples include HIV and COVID-19.

The term pandemic is charged with controversy, not least in the aftermath of the H1N1 influenza "pandemic", in which allegations of financial ties between the WHO and big pharma, led to allegations of politically-motivated definition changes to generate hyped up orders of antiviral agents 5

The term pandemic has classically been used for infectious diseases, however is now used more widely in medicine for any condition that is affecting people across large regions, for example the "vitamin D deficiency pandemic" 3 or the "obesity pandemic" 4.

History and etymology

In ancient Greek, the word πᾶν (pan) means all, and the word δῆμος (demos) means people.

See also

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