What is a pandemic?
Medicine speaks of a pandemic when a disease spreads nationwide. As a rule, several countries and even several continents are affected. Thus, the pandemic has a greater spread than the epidemic, in which a disease is limited to a smaller region. Accordingly, both the pandemic and the epidemic do not relate to a specific clinical picture but to the prevalence of diseases.
Any infectious disease can theoretically become a pandemic. Particularly affected are those infections that are highly contagious - for example, the real flu or influenza. Every 25 to 30 years, a variant viral disease spreads as a pandemic, while in the remaining years it generally occurs as an epidemic.
However, medicine as well as popular scientific publications also use the term pandemic to describe other phenomena. In recent years, for example, more and more often talk of an obesity pandemic. Morbid obesity is not due to an infectious disease, but is so prevalent globally that it meets the criteria of a pandemic.
The exact causes of a pandemic depend on which disease is pandemic. In an infectious disease that is caused by a virus, the mutation of the disease trigger is often a key factor in the onset of a pandemic. The human immune system is unresponsive to the mutant virus and can not defend itself sufficiently against the intruder.
However, not every mutation needs to lead to a pandemic. Another factor is unfavorable living conditions - for example, after wars or major natural disasters. These situations are often accompanied by a lack of clean drinking water and poor general hygiene, which favors the spread of infectious diseases. In addition, medical care in such crisis areas is difficult.
As a rule, travel and trade routes are decisively involved in the spread of the pandemic. Because of global connectivity, a virus can easily pass from one continent to another - for example, aboard a plane. However, pandemics existed long before the availability of these possibilities.
Symptoms, complaints & signs
Depending on the underlying disease, different symptoms may occur. Influenza typically manifests as a fever with body aches, chills, cough and airway inflammation. Patients often feel choppy and dull. In addition, headache, chest and eye pain can occur.
Slow pulse and low blood pressure are also possible. However, a pandemic does not have to manifest itself in clear symptoms like the real flu. AIDS, which is caused by the HIV virus, is also considered a pandemic. However, in this case, several years may pass after the infection, until the disease is noticeable by more pronounced symptoms.
In the acute phase of HI infection, the disease manifests itself in a few weeks after infection in many people, however, similar to the influenza: with fever, malaise, fatigue, head, muscle and / or joint pain, loss of appetite and weight loss, rash, hyperhidrosis (Night sweats) and other symptoms.
Diagnosis & disease course
In many cases, virus and bacterial infections can be proven by appropriate tests so that doctors can assign the pandemic to a clear cause. In order to record and illustrate the extent of a pandemic, medical professionals today still use maps that list the number of people affected for different areas.
This method was developed by the Englishman John Snow, who used it to identify a well as the cause of a local cholera epidemic. The course of the disease is specific to the particular infection. Between 1918 and 1920, around 22 million people died of the so-called Spanish flu after the First World War. These are more victims than the World War itself called for. The number of people who have died from HIV infection since the 1980s is estimated by the WHO at 39 million.
In most cases, a pandemic does not cause any particular complications if the flu is treated well. As a rule, complications only occur when the hygiene is not observed or when no treatment of the pandemic takes place. Patients in this disease suffer from the common symptoms and symptoms of the flu.
It comes primarily to a high fever and a lethargy. Without treatment, sufferers also suffer from pneumonia, they usually feel tired and exhausted. The patient's quality of life is significantly reduced by the pandemic. Even pains in the chest or eyes can occur due to the pandemic.
Furthermore it comes to rashes on the skin and an appetite loss. Of course, treatment of the pandemic can only be done if appropriate medication is available. The complaints can be restricted. However, late diagnosis or treatment significantly reduces the patient's life expectancy. In many cases, this unfortunately leads to the death of the person affected.
When should you go to the doctor?
A pandemic is a disease that spreads rapidly across national borders. Often, infectious diseases spread very rapidly, as there is an increased risk of infection. If a pandemic has already broken out in its own immediate region, the visit to the doctor must not be postponed. In a personal consultation it can be discussed which measures can be taken with regard to prevention or treatment. If one waives a visit to the doctor, then there is an acute danger of infection. This type of infectious disease causes typical symptoms such as fever, headache and body aches.
At the latest on the occurrence of these symptoms described must be made a medical and drug treatment. By means of appropriate drugs can be brought within a short time a significant improvement. However, if the diseased person refrains from such treatment, the symptoms that occur will very quickly worsen. Thus, if there are first signs of being linked to a pandemic, then a doctor should be consulted as soon as possible. Complications and complaints can be stopped with a visit to the doctor.
Treatment & Therapy
In a pandemic, the treatment of the individual affected by the particular disease. In addition, when a pandemic is detected in many countries, contingency plans that have already been set for this purpose will come into effect. One possible measure is to restrict travel to areas where the pandemic has already spread.
Travelers and others who may have been infected may also be quarantined after their return to monitor their health and detect symptoms in good time. After the incubation period, those concerned can usually leave the quarantine. In infectious diseases such as Ebola, especially the people from the next environment are at risk.
To detect any new pandemics and epidemics as early as possible, certain diseases are notifiable. A doctor who diagnoses the infection must notify the disease to the appropriate authority. Such a duty to report (without name) exists in Germany for example Syphilis.
Outlook & Forecast
The prognosis of a pandemic it depends to a considerable extent on the general health condition of the concerning. Risky patients may experience life-threatening health development. They include children, the elderly and those who already have pre-existing conditions. For those affected, the immune system is not mature or weakened. The pathogens can therefore spread faster in these people and lead to a sharp increase in complaints. In unfavorable conditions and without the fastest possible medical care, premature death can occur quickly.
At the beginning of a pandemic, historical evidence shows that there is an increased death rate over a long period of time. Often several million patients die from the new disease. Researchers and physicians must first recognize the pathogen in this phase in order to prevent it from spreading.
People who basically have a stable immune system and a healthy lifestyle usually have a better prognosis at the outbreak of a pandemic. As soon as they embark on medical treatment, medication is often used to stabilize their state of health. If researchers are able to develop a drug that controls the pandemic within a short time, recovery is possible.
In addition to the early detection of pandemics preventive measures contribute to the protection of populations. Vaccinations are an effective prevention against many viral diseases, including influenza. With regard to the influenza virus, an important goal is to reduce the likelihood of dangerous mutations and to protect those who can also die from a simple flu infection. Hygienic standards such as clean drinking water and basic personal hygiene, in addition to rapid medical care, also contribute to the prevention of pandemics.
In the case of a pandemic, no special and direct measures of follow-up can usually be predicted, since the treatment of the disease is highly dependent on its type and also on its expression. Therefore, the affected person should visit a doctor at the first signs and symptoms of the disease, so that it can not spread and thus further complications and complaints can be prevented.
It usually can not come to an independent healing, so always a treatment by a doctor is necessary. As a rule, a pandemic can be prevented by different vaccinations. These can still be done after a successful treatment, so that it does not come back to the infection.
During the treatment of the disease the contact with other people should be prevented as far as possible. It is also important to pay attention to a high standard of hygiene, and above all, only purified drinking water should be drunk. The body itself should generally be well protected to prevent infection. Whether the illness reduces the life expectancy of the person affected can not generally be predicted.
You can do that yourself
Since the term pandemic refers to the spread of cross-continent, human disease, important behaviors are often crucial to significantly reduce further disease transmission.
In the event of a worldwide outbreak of a disease, in the narrower sense of an infectious disease, every individual must take important protective measures. Diseased persons should always stay at home to prevent further risk of infection and uninfected persons should avoid crowding and physical contact with sick people. When dealing with patients, it is forbidden to touch one's own eyes, nose or mouth in personal interest.
In order to minimize the risk of infection, handing over should also be avoided or the use of foreign objects of daily use, for example mobile telephones, should be avoided. Preventive applies thorough hand washing and disinfection of the hands. It is also advisable to wear a mouth and nose protection when dealing with patients. Thorough, regular disinfection and cleaning of door handles, sanitary equipment, cutlery, etc., is recommended. Contaminated handkerchiefs, disposable gloves or respiratory masks are to be disposed of in separate garbage bags, well sealed in the household garbage.
These hygiene and behavioral rules, as well as the usual household disinfection recommendations are mere preventive measures and rules of conduct for a pandemic. They serve the caution and damage minimization. Pandemic planning is an important emergency planning and informs the population step by step via the media, hotlines and the Internet about the course of an emergency.