Epidemic

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In epidemiology, an epidemic (from επί (epi), meaning "upon or above" and δήμος (demos), meaning "people") occurs when new cases of a certain disease, in a given human population, and during a given period, substantially exceed what is expected based on recent experience.[1]:354[2] Epidemiologists often consider the term outbreak to be synonymous to epidemic, but the general public typically perceives outbreaks to be more local and less serious than epidemics.[1]:55, 354[2]

Epidemics of infectious disease are generally caused by a change in the ecology of the host population (e.g. increased stress or increase in the density of a vector species), a genetic change in the parasite population or the introduction of a new parasite to a host population (by movement of parasites or hosts). Generally, an epidemic occurs when host immunity to a parasite population is suddenly reduced below that found in the endemic equilibrium and the transmission threshold is exceeded.[3]

An epidemic may be restricted to one location; however, if it spreads to other countries or continents and affects a substantial number of people, it may be termed a pandemic.[1]:55 The declaration of an epidemic usually requires a good understanding of a baseline rate of incidence; epidemics for certain diseases, such as influenza, are defined as reaching some defined increase in incidence above this baseline.[2] A few cases of a very rare disease may be classified as an epidemic, while many cases of a common disease

Causes[edit]

There are several changes that may occur in an infectious agent that may trigger an epidemic these include:[1]:55

An epidemic disease is not required to be contagious,[2][4] and the term has been applied to West Nile fever[2] and the obesity epidemic, among others.[4]

The conditions which govern the outbreak of epidemics include infected food supplies such as contaminated drinking water and the migration of populations of certain animals, such as rats or mosquitoes, which can act as disease vectors. Certain epidemics occur at certain seasons: for example, whooping-cough occurs in spring, whereas measles produces two epidemics, one in winter and one in March. Influenza, the common cold, and other infections of the upper respiratory tract, such as sore throat, occur predominantly in the winter. There is another variation, both as regards the number of persons affected and the number who die in successive epidemics: the severity of successive epidemics rises and falls over periods of five or ten years.[5]

Types[edit]

Common source outbreak[edit]

In a common source outbreak, the affected individuals had an exposure to a common agent. If the exposure is singular and all of the affected individuals develop the disease over a single exposure and incubation course, it can be termed a point source outbreak. If the exposure was continuous or variable, it can be termed a continuous outbreak or intermittent outbreak, respectively.[1]:56

Propagated outbreak[edit]

In a propagated outbreak, the disease spreads person-to-person. Affected individuals may become independent reservoirs leading to further exposures.[1]:56

Many epidemics will have characteristics of both common source and propagated outbreaks. For example, secondary person-to-person spread may occur after a common source exposure or an environmental vectors may spread a zoonotic diseases agent.[1]:56–58

Transmission[edit]

[6]

Etymology[edit]

The term epidemic derives from a term first attributed to Homer's Odyssey, which later took its medical meaning from a treatise by Hippocrates, Epidemics.[4] Prior to Hippocrates, epidemios, epidemeo, epidamos and other variants had meanings similar to the current definitions of "indigenous" or "endemic".[4] Thucydides's description of the Plague of Athens is considered one of the earliest accounts of a disease epidemic.[4] By the very early 17th century, the terms endemic and epidemic were considered as contrasting conditions of diseases, with the endemic condition at low levels and epidemic condition widespread. [7]

See also[edit]

Organizations:

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Principles of Epidemiology, Second Edition. Atlanta, Georgia: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Green MS, Swartz T, Mayshar E, Lev B, Leventhal A, Slater PE, Shemer J (January 2002). "When is an epidemic an epidemic?". Isr. Med. Assoc. J. 4 (1): 3–6. PMID 11802306. 
  3. ^ "epidemic". The Encyclopedia of Ecology and Environmental Management, Blackwell Science. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1998. Credo Reference. Web. 17 September 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d e Martin PM, Martin-Granel E (June 2006). "2,500-year evolution of the term epidemic". Emerging Infect. Dis. 12 (6): 976–80. doi:10.3201/eid1206.051263. PMC 3373038. PMID 16707055. 
  5. ^ "Epidemic." Black's Medical Dictionary, 42nd Edition. London: A&C Black, 201e. Web. 17 September 2012.
  6. ^ "transmission." Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary. Philadelphia: Elsevier Health Sciences, 2007. Credo Reference. Web. 17 September 2012.
  7. ^ Lodge, T. (1603). A treatise of the plague: containing the nature, signes, and accidents of the same, with the certaine and absolute cure of the fevers, botches and carbuncles that raigne in these times. London: Edward White. 

External links[edit]