(of a disease) existing in almost all of an area or in almost all of a group of people, animals, or plants
n 11st March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 as a pandemic. It presented an unprecedented challenge to public health, food systems and the world of work.
It changed the world as we have known. It was an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, with worldwide effects in health, economy, job conditions, food, transportation, borders and security, among other.
Developed countries started to face an unforeseen situation, affecting to healthy condition. More accustomed to fighting other enemies, the coronavirus marked a turning point in the 21st century.
Pandemic, epidemic, endemic. What is what
As the WHO definition states, a pandemic occurs when a disease’s growth is exponential. This means each day cases grow more than the previous one. It is not related with virology, population immunity, or disease severity. It means a virus covers a wide area, affecting several countries and populations.
Not all diseases have the consideration of pandemic. They could also be epidemic or endemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes an epidemic as an unexpected increase in the number of disease cases in a specific geographical area. Yellow fever or polio are prime examples of epidemics.
It is important to notice that an epidemic disease doesn't necessarily have to be contagious. In fact, obesity is considered epidemic due to the rapid increase in rates.
Meanwhile, a disease outbreak is endemic when it is consistently present but limited to a particular region. This makes the disease spread and rates predictable. Malaria, for example, is considered endemic in certain countries and regions.
Covid-19 and the relevance of data
omparing daily Covid-19 deaths with other disasters were a common resource to understand the size of the tragedy. In the worst days of the pandemic, it was said that Covid deaths toll was like five Boeing 737 Max 8 jets crashing every day in the US. "Covid kills someone about every 15 minutes in LA".
Covid-19 pandemic has shown the relevance and importance of data and dataset. It has improved the value of timely, quality, open and disaggregated data and statistics because this information has been used for understanding, managing and mitigating the human, social and economic effects of the pandemic.
However, Covid-19 has also demonstrated how enormous can be huge data gaps, in terms of geographic coverage, timeliness, and the level of disaggregation required. And, for sure, the lack of dataset related with other pandemics. The forgotten pandemics.
Although there are several organizations that track some diseases (as Malaria, Cholera or Dengue), these datasets currently have a lot of problems:
- Datasets are not updated (in the best of the cases, 2020 is the last year with official numbers).
- Sometimes they only refer to at specific region (as Americas, in the case of Dengue) and not collect worldwide numbers.
- In other diseases (as malnutrition), estimation> is the best way to have an idea of what’s happening in some countries because these nations are so poorest that they don`t have official databases of these issues.
Because of that, making a comparative of what happened with Covid-19 and other pandemic could be tricky and even dangerous, because some of the date related are misleading, both for the forgotten pandemic but also for Covid-19. Official stats from developed countries (as US or European ones) are more accurate than those that comes from other nations (as China or Southeast Asia).
Since 2020, more than 6 million people died with Covid-19.
Only in 2020, 5 million children under 5 years died due to malnutrition
Even with all these considerations, there are a lot of learnings we can achieve regarding Covid-19 and other pandemics data related. The first one could be questioning why the official organizations have stopped to recollect data (or, at least, to update them) of other diseases during last two years.
lobally, there have been nearly 540 million confirmed cases of Covid-19. Of this, more than 6.3 million people has passed away with this illness. At the same time, official stats registered that nearly 12,000 million vaccine doses have been administered.