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In epidemiology, an epidemic (from Greek epi- upon + demos people) is a classification of a disease that appears as new cases in a given human population, during a given period, at a rate that substantially exceeds what is "expected," based on recent experience (the number of new cases in the population during a specified period of time is called the "incidence rate"). (An epizootic is the same thing but for an animal population.)
Additional recommended knowledge
Defining an epidemic can be subjective, depending in part on what is "expected". An epidemic may be restricted to one locale (an outbreak), more general (an "epidemic") or even global (pandemic). Because it is based on what is "expected" or thought normal, a few cases of a very rare disease like rabies may be classified as an "epidemic," while many cases of a common disease (like the common cold) would not.
Common diseases that occur at a constant but relatively high rate in the population are said to be "endemic." An example of an endemic disease is malaria in some parts of Africa (for example, Liberia) in which a large portion of the population is expected to get malaria at some point in their lifetimes.
Famous examples of epidemics include the bubonic plague epidemic of Medieval Europe known as the Black Death, and the Great Influenza Pandemic which coincided with the end of World War I.
In August 2007, the World Health Organization reported an unprecedented rate of propagation of infectious diseases. 
Non-infectious disease usage
The term "epidemic" is often used in a sense to refer to widespread and growing societal problems, for example, in discussions of obesity, mental illness or drug addiction.
Categories: Epidemiology | Epidemics | Pandemics | Biological hazards
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Epidemic". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|