Medical Definition of Endemic

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Endemic: A characteristic of a particular population, environment, or region. Examples of endemic diseases include chicken pox that occurs at a predictable rate among young school children in the United States and malaria in some areas of Africa. The disease is present in a community at all times but in relatively low frequency.

By contrast, there are the related terms "epidemic" and "pandemic":

  • An epidemic is a sudden severe outbreak within a region or a group, as with AIDS in Africa or AIDS in intravenous drug users.
  • A pandemic occurs when an epidemic becomes very widespread and affects a whole region, a continent, or the entire world.

The word "endemic" comes from the Greek "en-", "in" + "demos", "people or population" = "endemos" = "in the population." An endemic is in the people.

By contrast, "epi-" means "upon." An epidemic is visited upon the people. And "pan-" means "all." A pandemic affects all the people.

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Reviewed on 12/4/2018

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