The epidemiology of emerging infectious diseases and pandemics

Medicine (Abingdon). 2021 Oct;49(10):659-662. doi: 10.1016/j.mpmed.2021.07.011. Epub 2021 Aug 21.


The spectrum of human pathogens and the infectious diseases they cause is continuously changing through evolution, selection and changes in the way human populations interact with their environment and each other. New human pathogens often emerge or re-emerge from an animal reservoir, emphasizing the central role that non-human reservoirs play in human infectious diseases. The 1918 pandemic of influenza virus A/H1N1 and the 2020 pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are the most dramatic examples of this in recent human history. Pathogens can also re-emerge with new characteristics, such as multidrug resistance, or in different places, such as Ebola virus in West Africa in 2013 and Zika virus in Brazil in 2015, to cause new epidemics. Most human pathogens have a history of evolution in which they first emerge and cause epidemics, become unstably adapted, re-emerge periodically and then - without intervention - eventually become endemic, with the potential for future outbreaks.

Keywords: Drivers of emergence; MRCP; emerging infections; hotspots for emergence; species jump; zoonosis.

Publication types

  • Review