Epidemic: What Is It Exactly?

May 27, 2020 0 Comments

In common usage, we use the word epidemic as a noun meaning a temporary prevalence of a disease.

“Its medical definition is more specific: An epidemic is a disease that affects many persons at the same time, and spreads from person to person in a locality where the disease is not permanently prevalent.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) takes the definition one step further by specifying an epidemic occurs at the level of a region or community. If there are more cases of a disease in a community than one would expect, you have an epidemic.

An epidemic can happen in any community where the infectious agent can spread from host to host. So, there is no limit on community size.

It could be the size of a city or as small as a nursing home, which means that an epidemic could spread break out in a:

  • Nursing facility
  • Detention facility
  • School

Typically, epidemics result from:

  • A recent increase in the agent’s virulence
  • An increase in the amount of the agent
  • An introduction of the agent into a setting where it has not previously existed
  • The mode of transmission enhances which means more susceptible persons are exposed
  • The susceptibility of the host’s response to the agent has changed
  • Factors that increase host exposure or involve introduction through new portals of entry (47)

The Seven Epidemic Patterns

Epidemics tend to be classified according to how they spread through a population. They usually fall under one of seven patterns: common-source, point-source, continuous, intermittent, propagated, and mixed.

1. Common Source

A group of persons is all exposed to an infectious agent or a toxin from the same source.

2. Point Source

A common-source outbreak that stems from a group of people being exposed over a relatively brief period, so that everyone becomes ill within one incubation period.

3. Continuous

A common-source outbreak where the range of exposures and range of incubation periods tend to flatten and widen the peaks of the epidemic curve.

4. Intermittent

A common-source outbreak that has a pattern reflecting the intermittent nature of the exposure.

5. Propagated

An outbreak pattern that typically stems from direct person-person contact, but transmission could also be vehicle-borne. Cases occur over more than one incubation period, but the epidemic usually wanes after a few generations.

6. Mixed

An epidemic pattern that features both common sources and propagated traits.

7. Other

Some epidemics don’t fall under any pattern category.


The Difference Between an Epidemic, an Outbreak, and a Pandemic

With the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become crucial for people to understand the definitions of these three terms.


Epidemic refers to an increase in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected in the population of that area.


Outbreak carries the same definition of epidemic but is often used for a more limited geographic area.

Also, you may be becoming familiar with the term cluster. A cluster is a group of cases that occur at a certain time and place that are suspected to be higher than the number expected, even when the expected number may not be known.


A pandemic is an epidemic that has spread over multiple countries or continents and has affected a large number of people.

The word pandemic can be used for a disease that has spread across an entire country or another large landmass. However, it’s generally reserved to describe a disease that has spread across continents or the whole world.

WHO defines a pandemic as

“a worldwide spread of a new disease” and declared COVID-19 a pandemic due to its global spread and severity.

Preventing an Epidemic

The CDC guidelines for the prevention of the spread of COVID-19 have become second-nature to Americans during the pandemic.

Although these guidelines focus on preventing the spread of the coronavirus, they are also essential in preventing the spread of other infectious diseases. Unfortunately, these diseases can take hold in a community and rapidly turn into an epidemic.

And, just because coronavirus seems to have taken over the world doesn’t mean we still shouldn’t be on the lookout for the other infectious diseases like influenza.

Early Warning Systems

Above all, the best way to prevent an epidemic in your community is to use the CDC guidelines in tandem with early warning systems and healthy communication pathways.

Studies have shown:

  • The development of early warning systems is critical in preventing the spread of infectious diseases.
  • Tools that improve the focus of surveillance efforts are of paramount importance.
  • Risk assessment methods techniques may assist in estimating the probability of introduction and spread of infectious diseases in different geographical areas.

Hence, that is why wello created the welloStationX™ and welloWatch™.


It only takes one person to spread disease, and they might not even be aware they are a carrier. Elevated body temperature is the leading indicator of contagiousness.

However, it can be difficult to screen for until now with the introduction of welloStationX™ easily and accurately.

For example, this hands-free, self-service, high-volume body temperature screening unit detects when a person has an elevated temperature. And then, the station automatically and confidentially emails the person’s time and date stamped photograph to your staff.

As a result, this keeps your employees germ-free while preventing the potentially contagious person from spreading the infection to others.


The weather has a lot to do with the spread of disease. Air quality, low absolute humidity, and other factors can create perfect conditions for infections to flourish and spread.

Knowledge of risk is the best defense against disease spread, and that’s why we created the welloWatch™ app.

Our free welloWatch™ mobile app keeps you informed with real-time, geo-specific susceptibility risk updates for your location. Then, the app notifies you when there is a high risk of infection spread anywhere, anytime.

Call Us

Most importantly, if you’re ready to protect your vulnerable populations, go to the App Store or Google Play to get welloWatch™ for free.

And most importantly, call us for a consultation so we can work with you to create the best epidemic prevention plan for your facility!


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