An epidemic is a rapidly spreading contagious infectious disease in the sense of an epidemic or an "older term for a threatening and rapidly spreading disease" and, in a narrower sense, an illness of numerous living beings from a threatening and highly contagious infectious disease that occurs at a time and location. According to Manfred Vasold, it is a "highly contagious infectious disease with a relatively short incubation period " such as the epidemic diseases smallpox , measles and flu , which often occurs over a large area as a wave-like spread of epidemics , such as cholera and plague .
Etymology and history of the term epidemic
The word “epidemic” (from Middle High German siuche ) is an abstraction too siech (“weak, sick”) and goes back to Old High German siuhhī , among other things in the sense of “general disease that weakens the whole body or a disease of the whole area, of the whole clan or herd ”.
An epidemic used to be a "contagious disease that can spread more generally, since the healthy can be infected by those suffering from the same disease", but also (in the 17th century) the "disease substance that spreads through the whole body or the country goes ".
This earlier term "has an emotional quality, conjures up images of horror, danger, of mass misery and death". According to Johanna Bleker and Marina Stöffler-Meilicke, epidemic came into use in the 18th century as a replacement for the term plague or pestilence , the latter serving as a generic term for mass illnesses and deaths. This epidemic term hardly takes into account the diseases that are always present, but "describes more or less suddenly occurring mass diseases". The disease "was not defined by the cause, but by the intensity and suddenness of the occurrence". Epidemics in the old sense were dramatic events. This is also due to the fact that the knowledge of transmission by pathogens did not begin until 1876 through the work of Robert Koch .
The contagiousness ( ability to transmit) and infectiousness (ability to cause an infection in a host) as well as the type, severity and lethality (fatality) of the disease caused determine the type and extent of an epidemic. Typical is a serious course of such virulent infectious diseases, to " infirmity can cause" or death.
The outdated term loimology exists for epidemic theory (from the Greek loimos "plague, epidemic", for equation see above). The term epidemic research was and is still partly used as a term for research into infectious diseases (including their spread), which is now the subject of epidemiology or, more precisely, infection epidemiology . For example, there is the Friedrich Loeffler Institute on the island of Riems for research into animal diseases .
Current technical terminology
In modern technical terminology, the term has largely been replaced by infection (e.g. epidemic protection through infection control , epidemic hygiene through infection hygiene, epidemic events through infection events, epidemiology through infection epidemiology). In the context of biological hazards and highly contagious, life-threatening diseases, terms associated with the term epidemic are still in use (e.g. epidemic hygiene management, epidemic alarm plan).
Epidemiological clusters of infectious diseases are divided into three groups in epidemiology depending on the type of temporal and spatial spread.
In human medicine :
- Epidemic with temporally and spatially limited accumulation
- Endemic with spatially limited, temporally unlimited accumulation
- Pandemic with a time-limited, spatially unlimited accumulation
In veterinary medicine :
- Epizooty with temporally and spatially limited accumulation
- Enzootics with spatially limited, temporally unlimited accumulation
- Panzootie with temporally limited, spatially unlimited accumulation
As a rule, epidemics are subject to an obligation to report or notify public authorities. In the individual states (possibly with specifications in federal states or cantons) there are corresponding legal bases for this. In Germany this is regulated by the Infection Protection Act (formerly the Federal Disease Act ), in Switzerland by the Epidemic Act . In Austria this is regulated in four different laws . There are corresponding regulations for animal diseases . In Germany these must be reported to the veterinary office . In Switzerland there is the information system for epidemic reports from the cantons (InfoSM) with mandatory reports to the cantonal veterinary offices.
Other uses of the term disease
Pollution or contamination , the contamination by substances, particularly pollutants by micro-organisms, biological toxins, chemical substances or radioactivity.
Contamination is the medical term used to describe the extent to which an endemic infectious disease is spread. In contrast to the conventional prevalence , people are also counted who suffered from the disease but are healthy again, as well as those who are verifiably infected with the relevant pathogen but show no clinical signs of disease.
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