Difference Between Pandemic and Epidemic

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To resolve the debate of pandemic vs epidemic one needs to become familiar with the fundamentals of each concept. It will not just help to gain valuable insight about them but will further help you to distinguish them with greater ease. 

On that note, let’s proceed to find out how to define pandemic vs epidemic and subsequently move on to find their fundamental differences. 

What is an Epidemic?

It is the process wherein an infectious disease spreads among a large number of people within a short period. Furthermore, the infection can spread beyond a small population and spread across communities and in the country. 

The Spanish flu, whooping cough and measles outbreak are among the most common examples of an epidemic that occurred in the past. 

What is Pandemic?

It is essentially a more extensive form of an epidemic and can be best defined as the worldwide spread of a new disease. Besides spreading rapidly, a pandemic is responsible for taking innumerable lives. 

Usually, pandemics are a result of a disease or virus which was previously unknown. The most recent example of a pandemic is COVID-19 and HIV AIDS. 

Now that you know about the epidemic vs pandemic definition let’s find out their causes in general. 

Causes of Epidemic and Pandemic

Both epidemic and pandemic are caused by pathogens like virus, bacteria and other harmful parasites which tend to spread rapidly from one infected person to another. Typically, air, water and physical contact are among the most common modes of transmission. 

DIY: Find out the causative agents of two pandemics and two epidemics and write them down.

When does an Epidemic Become a Pandemic?

To understand the difference between epidemic and pandemic, let’s find out how an epidemic turn into a pandemic.

Usually, an epidemic turn into a pandemic when it becomes uncontrollable and spreads to a vast geographical area taking innumerable lives.

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Keeping that in mind, let’s process to resolve pandemic vs epidemic by uncovering the primary differences between the two.

Difference Between Epidemic and Pandemic

Most people tend to use the term pandemic and epidemic interchangeably to refer to the stages of the progression of a disease. However, one cannot overlook the fundamental differences between the two.

Check out the table below to find out the same.

Difference Between Epidemic and Pandemic





It is an outbreak of disease that spreads across the globe within a very short period. The spread of infection and scale of impact is relatively vast.

It is an outbreak of disease that spreads rapidly in the community, state and country. The spread of infection and scale of impact is not as vast as a pandemic.


It can affects the entire world population.

It is often limited to the geographical bounds of a community, country or continent.

Causative agent 

Mostly it is caused by a new strain of a pathogen. 

An epidemic is caused by pathogens like bacteria, viruses and other harmful parasites.

Death toll

Since it occurs globally, the death toll is quite high.

It is often limited to a country or a few countries at a time. As a result, the death toll is relatively less.


Its impact is large scale and disrupts the social and economic balance.

Epidemic’s impact is not as vast as that of a pandemic.


There is little to no immunity in this case.

The immunity level in people against an epidemic is relatively high. 



Malaria, typhoid fever, measles, etc. 

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is Pandemic?

Ans. It is a disease outbreak wherein an infectious disease spread rapidly across the globe within a short period. Being a global phenomenon, the number of people affected by it is significant.

2. What is an Epidemic?

Ans. It is a disease outbreak which spreads rapidly within a community. Typically, harmful pathogens like bacteria, virus, etc. are the primary agents of an epidemic. Also, when an epidemic becomes uncontrollable, it turns into a pandemic.

3. What is the difference between Pandemic and Epidemic?

Ans. The significant difference between the two lies in their scale of spread and death toll. An epidemic is often limited to a community, a country or at most a continent. On the other hand, a pandemic is a global phenomenon and is usually caused by a new strain of a virus.