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The COVID-19 pandemic

23 April 2020
2 min read
Volume 29 · Issue 8

Throughout history there have been epidemics and pandemics, many causing high mortality (Woodrow, 2019). An epidemic is an outbreak of a disease that spreads quickly and affects many individuals at the same time and can occur in a community, geographical area or several countries. During an epidemic, the disease is actively spreading. A pandemic is a type of epidemic that relates to geographic spread and describes a disease that affects an entire country or the whole world. Declaring a pandemic allows national and global public health agencies to respond to the situation at a higher level. Declaring a pandemic raises awareness of the problem and increases measures to control it.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) (2020a), the first influenza pandemic of the 21st century occurred in 2009–2010 and was caused by an influenza A (H1N1) virus. It was the first pandemic for which many WHO member states developed comprehensive pandemic plans, describing the public health measures to be taken, aimed at reducing illness and fatalities. For the first time, a pandemic vaccine was developed, produced and deployed in multiple countries. Although most cases of pandemic H1N1 were mild, globally it is estimated that the 2009 pandemic caused between 100 000 and 400 000 deaths in the first year alone.

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