WHO says the outbreak is an epidemic, not yet a pandemic. What’s the difference?


The Wuhan coronavirus outbreak is not a pandemic, World Health Organization officials said Tuesday, adding that they’re hopeful transmission of the virus can be contained.

The agency acknowledges that it is challenging to contain the virus because of global mass movement.

“We are not in a pandemic,” said WHO official Sylvie Briand, explaining that the virus is currently considered to be an epidemic with multiple locations.

“We will try to extinguish the transmission in each of these,” she said, adding that the agency believes this “can be done with containment measures currently in place.”

Pandemic vs. epidemic: A pandemic is defined as the worldwide spread of a new disease, but it’s not quite as simple as that. Many factors, including population immunity and disease severity, need to be taken into account.

An epidemic is more than a normal number cases of an illness, specific health-related behavior or other health-related events in a community or region. A disease outbreak is the occurrence of disease cases in excess of what’s normally expected, according to WHO.



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