Skip to main content

A pandemic (from the Greek pan, “all,” and demos, “people”) is the worldwide spread of a previously unknown disease. Steps toward a pandemic include outbreaks (the emergence of a disease in a specific city or country) and epidemics (a rise in infections that’s dramatically or suddenly higher than what’s expected). But definitions vary among health agencies about what “worldwide” means, so a disease may reach lots of countries but not be called a pandemic. The last generally agreed-upon pandemic was in 2009, when a new flu strain called H1N1 emerged.

Pandemics don’t make diseases any deadlier per se; for instance, you could have a pandemic of a virus with a zero-per-cent mortality rate in which lots of people get sick but no one is killed. But when potentially fatal diseases such as COVID-19 reach pandemic status, they get harder to predict and fight, meaning the most at-risk groups are likelier to be infected.

  • Learn more here about how pandemics are defined and how Canadian health officials are trained to respond to them.

You can also check The Globe and Mail’s digest of the latest news about COVID-19′s spread around the world.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies