According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a pandemic is defined as the “worldwide spread of a new disease.”12 When a new disease initially appears, most individuals lack the natural immunity to defend against it. This can cause a sudden, sometimes rapid, spread of the disease between people, across communities, and around the world. Without a natural immunity to fight off an illness, many people can become ill as it spreads. This is the case with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID‑19) pandemic.
Pandemics are not automatically defined by their growth rate but rather by the spread of the disease. Understanding the growth rate of a pandemic can still help health officials prepare for an outbreak. The WHO is responsible for announcing the emergence of a new pandemic based on how the spread of the disease fits into the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response.13
Many disease outbreaks follow a growth or spread pattern defined as exponential growth. This means they spread at a rapid rate over a specific period of days, weeks, or months.14 Past pandemics include (but are not limited to): 1) the 1918 flu pandemic (H1N1 virus) from 1918-1920, which took the lives of anywhere from 50 to 100 million people around the world,15 2) the 1957 flu pandemic (H2N2 virus), which occurred from 1957–1958 and took the lives of roughly 1.1 million people worldwide,16 and 3) and the 2002 SARS pandemic, which was associated with another coronavirus—SARS-CoV.17 The 2002 SARS coronavirus outbreak was a viral pneumonia epidemic that took the lives of over 770 people worldwide.17
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