“Whats in a name?”

The unprecedented measures imposed on world populations were justified by a supposed pandemic. Hence, to begin with, it is necessary to have a precise idea of the meaning of this term. To paraphrase Shakespeare, “Whats in a name? That which we call a pandemic. By any other name would be as devastating.” Well its not that simple, names are important because they are charged with connotations, and hence potent with consequences. In the case of a pandemic, a fundamental point is that it is variously defined, notably as a consequence of the changes brought to the definition of an epidemic on which it is based.

Though the term pandemic was first introduced in a 1666 treatise on consumption,[1] it remained scientifically unused until the AIDS panic, when a definition was given by the Dictionary of Epidemiology (DOE). Even then, it cannot be found in major epidemiology textbooks of the 1990s.[2]

The DOE’s 1987 2nd edition defines it as an “epidemic occurring over a very wide area and usually affecting a large proportion of the population”, and an epidemic as the “occurrence in a community or region of cases of an illness, specific health-related behavior, or other health- related events clearly in excess of normal expectancy. The community or region, and the period in which the cases occur, are specified precisely. The number of cases indicating the presence of an epidemic varies according to the agent, size, and type of population exposed, previous experience or lack of exposure to the disease, and time and place of occurrence … A single case or a communicable disease long absent from a population or first invasion by a disease not previously recognized in that area requires immediate reporting and full field investigation; two cases of such a disease associated in time and place may be sufficient evidence to be considered an epidemic.”

Since then, the scientific and administrative definition of the term pandemic and of that of epidemic on which it depends have been regularly added to or even modified.

1995: The 3rd edition of the DOE leaves the definitions largely unchanged, but insists on the international aspect of a pandemic, adding that it is an “epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries” It also adds of couple examples, one of which is vaginal cancer in women whose mothers had taken a specific drug.

2003: The World Health Organization reduced pandemics to those behaving like influenza: “An influenza pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus appears against which the human population has no immunity, resulting in several simultaneous epidemics worldwide with enormous numbers of deaths and illness.”[3]

6 May 2009[4]: the WHO altered its definition to: “A disease epidemic occurs when there are more cases of that disease than normal. A pandemic is a worldwide epidemic of a disease. An influenza pandemic may occur when a new influenza virus appears against which the human population has no immunity.”[5]

2014: The most recent edition of the DOE brought further precision: “Only some pandemics cause severe disease in some individuals or at a population level. Characteristics of an infectious agent influencing the causation of a pandemic include: the agent must be able to infect humans, to cause disease in humans, and to spread easily from human to human.”

These definitions involve serious issues. Science is a question of comparison with respect to some external reference. Absolute concepts like hot or cold are subjective and unscientific. What is scientific are the relative concepts of hotter and colder. The same holds for the concepts of “enormous numbers” and “large numbers”. Disconnected strings of numbers may feed number mysticism, but are worthless scientifically. One problem is determining an objective precise reference with respect to which a disease could be labelled an epidemic or a pandemic. Comparisons to diseases with “normal” numbers of cases are inadequate. What is “normal”? What happens every year? Given, there can be noticeable differences between years, does this refer to an average or to some median? Over how many years? Besides, when exactly can we talk of “clear excess”? Subjective imprecision cannot be removed. Even “time and place” is left to individual judgement.

As follows from the above definitions, it is not just a question of whether there has been a pandemic, but of what we actually mean when we claim there is a pandemic. So while popular conceptions continue to invoke “danger to the public and a very large number of victims”,[6] the DOE and 2009 WHO definitions of a pandemic no longer conjure up nightmarish visions of soaring numbers of victims. According to the latter, regarding a new disease, it suffices there be only one case since one would evidently be “more than normal”.   Moreover, there is no longer any allusions to deaths, only to cases.

Given the subjectivity of the term epidemic,  the House of Lords had previously argued in 1996 that “Administrative definitions can be set for different diseases in which an arbitrary threshold is selected above which the term ‘epidemic’ is applied.”[7] This is precisely what the British and other governments did earlier this century regarding influenza, thereby opening the door to the extension of this arbitrariness to other diseases.

What is more, the epidemiological definition includes non-contagious diseases, as is made clear by its example of vaginal cancer, although its 2014 version explicitly emphasizes contagious ones. The latter are the only ones covered by the WHO definitions. These go further; they reduce pandemics to viral diseases. Although the DOE remains prudent, the WHO states as fact what has not yet been scientifically corroborated. Indeed, contagiousness and virality of diseases remain elusive concepts.[8] [9] No virus has in fact yet been observed.  A recent experiment seemingly confirms this conclusion.[10]  It awaits independent checking and thus reproduction.

We now know that bacteria and exosomes, indistinguishable from what are stated to be pathological viruses,[11] [12] are essential in maintaining us alive. Hence rather than harming us, alleged viruses may be helping us regain health when we have too much toxins. Their presence is certainly insufficient to cause any disease. By redefining illness by the mere presence of microbes of which we have a-plenty and said to be contagious, we are defining everyone as ill and a danger for others. In Orwellian speak, health is now illness and innocents potential criminals.

So the questions remain: When is a pandemic a pandemic? When should health, a private matter, become a public concern, to what extent and in what way?

 

  1. Harvey, G. Morbus anglicus or a theoretick and practical discourse of consumptions and hipochondriack melancholy. London: William Thackeray. 1694.
  2. Chrities, D., I. Gordon, I., R. F. Heller. 1997. Epidemiology. Sidney: University of New South Wales Press
  3. https://web.archive.org/web/20030202145905/http://www.who.int/csr/disease/influenza/pandemic/en/
  4. https://web.archive.org/web/20090504005605/http://www.who.int/csr/disease/influenza/pandemic/en/
  5. https://web.archive.org/web/20090507005246/http://www.who.int/csr/disease/influenza/pandemic/en/
  6. https://www.ima.org.il/FilesUploadPublic/IMAJ/0/55/27606.pdf
  7. Ibid.
  8. Lester, D., D. Parker. 2019. What really makes you ill?
  9. Engelbrecht, T. et al. 2007. Virus Mania. Trans.: M. Chapelas, D. Egan. Victoria, Canada: Trattford.
  10. https://odysee.com/@OurFreeSociety:2/CPE—Control-Experiment—21-April-2021—English-version:0?
  11. https://www.pnas.org/content/113/33/9155
  12. https://rupress.org/jcb/article/162/6/960/33690/When-is-a-virus-an-exosome