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What is a Pandemic?

And the global battle against COVID-19

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CIVICS: Pandemics are considered a national security threat for almost any country. [United Nations, UN Chronicle] Strong partnerships amongst world leaders are critical for handling pandemics. Strong partnerships are created through strong foreign policy. [Foreign Policy]


SOCIAL: Pandemics are deadly. The Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 killed at least 50 million people - more Americans than WWI, WWII, and 9/11 combined. [Vox], [U.S. National Library of Medicine


ECONOMIC: Pandemics and epidemics can significantly impact global economies. [U.S. National Library of Medicine] The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to produce higher rates of unemployment than the Great Depression, with authorities predicting 30% unemployment in the U.S. [U.S. News and World Report]


Lower impact

The estimated global mortality with pandemics is significantly lower than pandemics 100 years ago. [U.S. National Library of Medicine



Medical care

Diagnosing, studying and caring for viruses has become more accurate and more widely available.  [U.S. National Library of Medicine



Vaccines and medicine

Vaccines, like the seasonal flu vaccine, and antiviral medications emerged after the Spanish flu. These measures prevent epidemics and pandemics. [U.S. Library of Medicine]


Herd immunity, or community immunity, also protects against epidemics and pandemics. Herd immunity happens when a "critical mass" is immunized. [PBS, WGBH], [U.S Department of Health and Human Services]




Since 1916, the United States has worked closely with the World Health Organization to increase the country's readiness to respond to an epidemic or pandemic. 


Measures include "stockpiling" medicines and vaccines, and educating the public on health and safety.  [U.S. National Library of Medicine


After the Ebola epidemic, many countries took additional measures to prepare for outbreaks. [The Washington Post]



The increase in the world population has resulted in overcrowded urban areas. Overcrowding can increase person-to-person viral outbreaks. [U.S. National Library of Medicine]


More people require more food. The increase in meat and poultry production increases the frequency of more viruses and new viruses to be transmitted to humans. 

[U.S. National Library of Medicine]




Global transportation was not widely available 100 years ago.


This global mobility of humans allows viruses to travel widely and more freely, helping stimulate the pandemic. [The Atlantic]



Improving prevention

According to a 2018 global health index, no country is 100% prepared for a pandemic.  [The Washington Post]


According to the World Health Organization, at least 101 countries have no or no publically available national plan for handling a pandemic. 


Only 25 countries have published plans. [U.S. National Library of Medicine




The World Health Organization has expressed concern over a combination of information overload and misinformation online. This combination can be dangerous to public health. [The United Nations News], [NPR]


For example, misinformation online about vaccines has caused near eradicated, preventable diseases (like measles) to reemerge. [U.S. National Library of Medicine]



  • Dive deep into seasonal flu vs. pandemic flu from the CDC.
  • Here is the National Pandemic Strategy for the United States, published by the CDC.
  • Read the Coronavirus Wuhan diary from the BBC.
  • The quarantined city of Wuhan is experiencing a shortage of diagnosis kits and hospital beds. [NPR]
  • Many believe this public health crisis is a political test for President Xi Jinping. Read more from Aljazeera.
  • Track cases worldwide with Johns Hopkins University.
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