Hey everyone! Lately there has been a pretty bad (and annoying!) epidemic going around Whyville. The dragon swooping cough. Every time I log on it seems like someone new has it! This got me thinking . . . when does just a plain sickness become an actual epidemic? Is the dragon swooping cough really an epidemic like we say?
First we need to figure out what the word epidemic actually means. According to wikipedia, an epidemic is the rapid spread of an infectious disease to a large group of people within a short period of time. There is a specific point at which a disease goes from an outbreak to an illness though! We will talk about this later.
Now that we know what an epidemic is lets look at some examples of well known epidemics all around the world. Ebola is probably one of the most talked about epidemics that has happened within the past few years. It was spreading like crazy, it was dangerous, and most of all just plain scary! (If you want to learn more about ebola and where it all started you can read my article here: http://j.whyville.net/smmk/whytimes/article?id=15020.) The flu is another one. Usually the flu doesn't quite reach the epidemic "limit," but in 2014 it did! An article in the Washington Post stated, "The influenza season reaches an epidemic level when the proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza reaches a certain threshold: 6.8 percent." This number is not set in stone, though! It varies from season to season.
The dragon swooping cough sure does sound like it matches this criteria doesn't it? People are getting the illness left and right, and it sure does seem like more than 6.8% of the population has it! So let's do some math to see if this would REALLY be considered an epidemic by the CDC using their "threshold..."
If we use the statement above that claims the epidemic threshold is 6.8% (you can't die on whyville so we will just say infected citizens,) and the statistics from the virus graphs provided by the CDC (http://j.whyville.net/smmk/virus/graphs,) we can figure out what this illness really should be called. Now . . . the graph says it's an outbreak, but the citizens and City Workers are claiming it's an epidemic! Let's see who is right. According to the graphs as of today there are about 260 infected users on Whyville, and according to the scrolling text on the left side of our screens the population is 7778706. If we do the math (7778706*6.8/100) we get 528952! This is nowhere near the 260 cases documented on the cdc chart! Keep in mind this number was the threshold for influenza . . . not dragon swooping cough. Everything is still on the table! Also, the CDC does NOT have a threshold set for EVERY disease.
The center's online glossary states that "outbreak" can actually be used interchangeably with "epidemic" and that the former is often preferable merely because it's a less frightening term. So what do you think the dragon swooping cough is? Do you think it's a full on epidemic, or just an outbreak? Do you think there is truly a difference between the two? Let me know!
Thanks for reading! Make sure you stay safe so you aren't the next victim of this horrible disease!
Author's Note: Sources: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2014/12/30/this-seasons-flu-activity-has-reached-the-epidemic-threshold-the-cdc-says/