Health Not

What Is the Difference Between an Epidemic and a Pandemic?

‘Epidemic’ and ‘pandemic’ are two words that have become part of our everyday speech. There can be some confusion though in how these words are used and sometimes people will say one thing when they mean another. The way we deal with an epidemic and a pandemic will differ so it is useful to be able to distinguish between them.

What is an Epidemic?

An ‘epidemic’ refers to a situation where more people than would normally be expected are suffering from a certain condition. It is a widespread outbreak of a disease where a lot of people are ill. An example of this would be how almost all communities will experience a cold and flu season, but if the number of people hit by these infections is higher than usual then we would call that an epidemic. An epidemic will be characterised as an infection that infects a lot of people in a certain community or geographical area; in other words the rate of infections will be normal outside of this grouping.

What is a Pandemic?

As we have already said, an epidemic will occur within a certain community or in a particular geographical area. If the infection spreads to a much larger group of people and spreads outside of a community it will then be considered a pandemic. So the difference between an epidemic and pandemic is in regards to the extent of the problem and the number of people who have been affected.

A good example of a pandemic would be swine flu. This infection has occurred on a number of occasions but in 2007 it became a pandemic by spreading to a number of different countries. There was a global effort to prevent swine flu from spreading internationally and it seems that these efforts were successful. If this swine flu had only been an epidemic in one community it would have been the cause of concern, but the fact that it became a pandemic had a lot of people panicking.

The terms ‘pandemic’ and ‘epidemic’ can sometimes be a bit misleading if we think that it is only about numbers. For example, most of the population of a country might be infected by the flu but this won’t be considered a pandemic though because it could be that as a whole the countries infection rate isn’t higher than normal.

Why is it Important to Know the Difference between a Pandemic and Epidemic?

The reason why it is important to be able to differentiate between a pandemic and an epidemic is to do with how we react to it. If an infection is higher than normal within a certain community then we can focus health care resources to help deal with people dealing with this epidemic. If the disease becomes a pandemic though, we will need to do all we can to stop the spread of the infection – it becomes a national or international problem rather than just a local one.

Health Not

What are Symptoms of Rabies in Humans?

If we are bitten by a dog or other animal, we may be worried about the possibility of contracting rabies. This disease is actually fairly uncommon, but most of us will have heard about it from movies or other media. Although rare, it is a good idea to understand the symptoms of rabies because it can be very serious. Anyone who has been bitten by a wild animal should of course seek medical assistance right away, but even if it is an animal we are familiar with we should still get attention for the bite.

What is Rabies?

Rabies is a viral infection that attacks the central nervous system. It can be deadly and it is passed to humans in the saliva of animals who have been infected with this virus. The vast majority of animals who have rabies will be wild; in some countries wild animals account for more than 90% of infections. The most common animals to pass on rabies are wild dogs, foxes, racoons, and bats. For people to contract rabies they will usually have been bitten by one of these animals; the skin will have been broken and this means that the saliva from the animal can pass on the infection. In very rare cases it has occurred that the infection has been passed onto humans without an actual bite.

The Symptoms of Rabies in Humans

The important thing to realise with rabies in humans is that the incubation period can vary greatly. Symptoms may appear relatively quickly or it could incubate for months – or even years. Most people with rabies though, will start exhibiting symptoms within 3 to 7 weeks. The most common symptoms that will be observed include:

  • Strange sensations at the part of the body where the original bite occurred
  • Numbness or tingling in the body
  • Increased anxiety for no apparent reason
  • Drooling at the mouth
  • Loss of muscle function
  • Hallucinations
  • Paralysis
  • Excitability
  • A low grade fever
  • People can start to have convulsions
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty swallowing and muscle spasms in the throat – this leads to the foaming at the mouth that is so often associated with rabies
  • Muscle spasms

If the symptoms of rabies are allowed to develop then they will lead to death so it is vital that people seek attention before symptoms appear. There is preventative treatment available but this needs to be commenced before the symptoms begin for it to be effective. If there is any chance that you may have contracted rabies your health care professional will provide you with five vaccine shots that are usually spaced out over 28 days. There are a couple of tests that can be performed in order to determine if you have indeed contracted this disease.

The best way to deal with rabies is to avoid getting bitten in the first place. Never approach an animal that is behaving strangely or acting aggressively. If you see such a suspicious animal you should get away from it and alert the authorities.