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"Occasionally there is a great soldier who knows, like General Bullard. He stands out by contrast. However, this may seem like spleen. But not at all; it leads up to our theme that soldiers have rarely won wars. They more often mop up after the barrage of epidemics. And typhus, with its brothers and sisters, — plague, cholera, typhoid, dysentery, — has decided more campaigns than Caesar, Hannibal, Napoleon, and all the inspector generals of history. The epidemics get the blame for defeat, the generals the credit for victory. It ought to be the other way round — perhaps some day the organization of armies will be changed, and the line officer will do what the surgeon-general lets him do. Among other things, this plan would remove about 90 per cent of the expenses of the pension system."--Rats, Lice and History (1935) by Hans Zinsser

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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.)

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 concurring with the end of World War I.

Non-biological usage

The term is often used in a non-biological sense to refer to widespread and growing societal problems, for example, in discussions of obesity, mental illness or drug addiction.


Epidemiology is the study of factors affecting the health and illness of populations, and serves as the foundation and logic of interventions made in the interest of public health and preventive medicine. It is considered a cornerstone methodology of public health research, and is highly regarded in evidence-based medicine for identifying risk factors for disease and determining optimal treatment approaches to clinical practice. In the study of communicable and non-communicable diseases, the work of epidemiologists ranges from outbreak investigation to study design, data collection and analysis including the development of statistical models to test hypotheses and the documentation of results for submission to peer-reviewed journals. Epidemiologists also study the interaction of diseases in a population, a condition known as a syndemic. Epidemiologists rely on a number of other scientific disciplines, such as biology (to better understand disease processes), Geographic Information Science (to store data and map disease patterns) and social science disciplines (to better understand proximate and distal risk factors).

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Epidemic" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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