Pandemic vs. Epidemic: Implications for Business

With seemingly the worst of COVID-19 behind us, business leaders around the globe are breathing a sigh of relief. But we all know that we can’t remain complacent. There’s no question that a new pandemic or epidemic will strike eventually. The only question is – which one will strike first?

Without a crystal ball, it’s impossible to know for sure whether your next opponent will be a pandemic or epidemic. But there are plenty of signals your enterprise should be tracking – signals that can provide you with important foresight about the next crisis. 

Why take the time to track approaching pandemics or epidemics? COVID-19 reminded us that a public health crisis can create severe setbacks or lead to bankruptcy for any enterprise, large or small. Understanding the enemy and tracking its movements is the best way to avoid being blindsided.

Epidemics And Pandemics: What’s The Difference?

The words “epidemic” and “pandemic” are often used interchangeably. But they’re different for a reason.

What is a pandemic?

A pandemic is a disease outbreak that occurs over a wide geographic area, often worldwide.. When one strikes, it affects an exceptionally high proportion of the global population. Pandemics transcend borders, political lines and continents. Since our globe is so interconnected, pandemics can spread very quickly. A look back at the COVID-19 timeline confirms this:

  • The very first reports of a novel virus came at the very end of December 2019.
  • By January 21, 2020, the WHO conducted its first mission to Wuhan, China to learn more about the cluster of cases.
  • By January 24, three novel cases were reported in France.
  • By March 11, the WHO had classified COVID-19 as a pandemic.

Pandemics bring disaster in their wake. They’re capable of causing significant amounts of severe disease, mortality and societal disruption.

What is an epidemic?

The term “epidemic” refers to the rapid spread of a disease within a specific community, region or population. Compared to pandemics, epidemics have a more localized scope. But this doesn’t mean they can’t wreak havoc. SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) is an example of a destructive epidemic in recent memory. In 2003, SARS claimed the lives of over 800 people. In areas of the globe that never saw a SARS outbreak, panic and uncertainty still reigned.

What Are The Factors That Drive Pandemics and Epidemics?

Multiple contributing issues influence the likelihood and severity of the next pandemic or epidemic. Consider these factors that drive both:

Globalization and Travel

In many ways, globalization has turned the entire planet into a village. In only 45 hours, a commercial plane can travel the entire circumference of the globe. As international travel and trade increases, so does the risk of both pandemics and epidemics. Communication and transportation are advancing exponentially, furthering the world’s economic and social globalization. While globalization can give your enterprise a worldwide reach, it also makes public health disease containment much more challenging.

Globalization and Travel


As densely populated areas become the norm worldwide, the risk of epidemics and pandemics is exacerbated. Over half the world’s population now lives in towns and cities – and by 2030, the number of urban dwellers is expected to reach 5 billion.

Zoonotic Diseases

When a novel infectious disease arises in humans, it often originated in animals first. Such a disease is called a zoonosis. Unfortunately, due to human activities like deforestation and building at the urban/wild interface, these zoonotic diseases are only expected to become more common. As we continue to encroach on animals’ natural habitats, and as climate change disrupts them, more germs jump from animals to man.

Antibiotic Resistance

Before the discovery of antibiotics, human life expectancy was around 47 years. Even in the most industrialized communities, infectious diseases routinely caused death before middle age. Antibiotic develoopment dramatically extended life expectancy in the 20th century. The misuse and overuse of antibiotics, however,  have led to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. These “superbugs” are harder to treat, and mortality rises from them. Antibiotic resistance doesn’t cause epidemics or pandemics, but it makes ones caused by superbugs harder to control, more severe, and deadlier. 

Climate Change

As the climate changes rapidly, disease vectors like mosquitoes and ticks are becoming more prevalent. These tiny insects are responsible for spreading dangerous illnesses including:

  • Malaria
  • Dengue fever
  • Lyme disease

And as the planet warms, these diseases will increasingly become a global problem, no longer confined to tropical or subtropical regions. 

Vaccine Hesitancy

Vaccines have proven to be one of the most effective tools against infectious diseases in human history. Despite saving countless lives, vaccines are facing a PR problem due to misinformation. Around the world, vaccine hesitancy poses a significant threat to public health – and since the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been steadily rising. In fact, during the COVID-19 pandemic, trust in childhood vaccines dropped by up to 44 percentage points in multiple countries. Studies have shown higher COVID mortality in regions with lower vaccine uptake. Misinformation and distrust in vaccines hinder global vaccination efforts, causing preventable diseases to spiral into epidemics or pandemics. 

Vaccine Hesitancy

Protecting Your Enterprise From Biorisks

The current situation is sobering, but not hopeless. With early detection and surveillance, investment in global healthcare infrastructure, and collaboration among key players worldwide, pandemics and epidemics can be confronted head on.

For enterprise, many of the needed preparatory steps are the same, whether a pandemic or an epidemic arises first. Investment now in epidemic/pandemic planning will pay large dividends in the years ahead and provide competitive advantage.

Need actionable insights to help you protect your assets and team members? 

The Global Threat Tracker is the newest part of the PHC Pharos platform. It enables your enterprise to understand biosecurity risks and respond early. You can track one location or all of your locations using filters for COVID-19, RSV, influenza and other risks.

Watch our demo to learn more about the Global Threat Tracker.

Get started with the Pharos Platform. 

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Dave Komendat retired as the Vice President and Chief Security Officer for The Boeing Company, a role he held for 14 years of his 36 years within the security profession. Komendat was responsible for the company’s global security and fire protection policy and procedures, site security, executive protection, supply chain and aviation security, structural and aircraft fire protection, government and proprietary information security, classified cyber security, strategic intelligence, international security, business continuity and disaster preparedness, Global Security Operations Center, and security background investigations.


Komendat was also the lead Boeing interface for both national and international security policy engagement with numerous government and industry advisory groups. He represented Boeing as past co-chairman and current board member on the Domestic Security Alliance Council, past President of The International Security Management Association and served as a member of the Threats and Information Committee for the Overseas Security Advisory Council.  


Komendat is the founder and President of DSKomendat Risk Management Services, he also serves on several company advisory boards and holds board leadership roles with several non-profit organizations whose missions are to protect people globally, including Hostage U.S. and The International Security Foundation. Dave is also a Strategic Engagement Advisor for the Office of Private Sector within the FBI. In 2018, Dave was awarded the Director’s Award for Exceptional Public Service by FBI Director Christopher Wray.


Komendat graduated from California State University at Long Beach and also attended and completed the executive development program at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Dr. Carter Mecher serves as the Medical Advisor for the Public Health Company. 


Prior to joining PHC, Carter served as a Senior Medical Advisor for the Office of Public Health in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In this position, Dr. Mecher played a key role in the COVID-19 outbreak response. 


From 2005 to 2011, he served as the Director of Medical Preparedness Policy at the White House Homeland Security Council and National Security Staff. He was a principal author of the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Implementation Plan. In this capacity, he helped set policy and devise strategies to mitigate the consequences of a pandemic and promote pandemic preparedness. 


Before serving at the White House, Dr. Mecher was the Chief Medical Officer for the Southeast VA Network in Atlanta from 1996 to 2005. In this role he oversaw the healthcare delivery for veterans in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. 


Dr. Mecher is a co-author of Lessons from the COVID War, an in-depth examination of the U.S. response to the pandemic. In addition, he is featured in Michael Lewis’ book The Premonition.


Dr. Mecher received his medical degree from Chicago Medical School and completed a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in critical care medicine at Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center.

Dr. Joe DeRisi is a Scientific Advisor to PHC. He is one of the early pioneers of DNA microarray technology and whole genome expression profiling; he is nationally recognized in the field of genomic epidemiology for designing a first-of-its-kind initiative for COVID-19. Joe currently serves as Co-President of Chan Zuckerberg BioHub and is a professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at University of California, San Francisco. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Stanford University.

Dr. Sumiko Mekaru is the Vice President of Research and Innovation at The Public Health Company. Dr. Mekaru is an epidemiologist operating at the intersection of traditional epidemiology and technology and leading cross-disciplinary teams to solve challenges in public health. Prior to joining PHC, Dr. Mekaru was a Life Sciences Strategy, Policy, and Operations Expert at Booz Allen Hamilton where she recently led the development of COVID-19 forecasting models for disease transmission, resource utilization, and critical events for the Department of Defense. Dr. Mekaru has also led health technology teams at Epidemico and Boston Children’s Hospital, creating innovative health surveillance tools. She has published extensively on infectious disease outbreak monitoring, modeling, and surveillance. Dr. Mekaru holds a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Tufts University and a PhD in epidemiology from Boston University.

Justin McIntosh is an experienced professional with 10+ years in management and 8+ years in software engineering. Currently, he is the Vice President of Operations at The Public Health Company. His journey began in college when he co-founded Safe Site, a utility services company, which expanded to operations in three states with over 300 employees. After a successful exit, he founded Docusite, a construction risk management application, diving into software engineering. Despite challenges with Docusite, Justin’s passion for technology led him to various roles before landing at The Public Health Company.


In his current role, Justin is tackling the challenging task of improving operations in a remote environment. He is dedicated to his role and is always open to sharing experiences and insights. He is committed to nurturing effective teams, improving operations, and shaping innovative solutions. His focus is on creating a positive, growth-oriented environment and mentoring emerging leaders, reflecting his commitment to collective success.

Lori Sutton is the Vice President of Marketing at The Public Health Company. She is a strategic marketing visionary and global brand leader with 20+ years of progressive experience in B2B/B2C SaaS software marketing in large enterprise and SMB markets. She has expertise in leading strategy development, overhauling brands, launching products and driving growth in target verticals. Prior to joining PHC, Lori was the Vice President of Marketing and Growth at SMS-Magic, where she led the global GTM strategy, orchestrated a brand overhaul, developed new messaging and positioning and launched revenue generating campaigns. Lori held marketing and management roles at Model N, Bullet Point Network, Saba and other SaaS software companies where she focused on marketing strategy, business objectives and analytics to drive revenue.

Lori holds an MFA from California Institute of the Arts, a BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, an Executive Education in Corporate Strategy at Harvard Business School and continues coursework at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Craig Katsuyama is the Vice President of Administrative Services at PHC. He brings extensive experience building companies from the ground up and was instrumental to the launch of IEX Group in 2012, which challenged the status quo of financial markets and created an entirely new stock exchange that works for all investors. Craig spent the last eight years at IEX where he built and oversaw the accounting and finance teams before transitioning to help establish IEX’s Event Stream business, a data messaging platform that applies IEX’s core technology to areas outside of finance. Craig graduated from Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, Canada with a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting and Economics.

Dr. David Fisk is the Chief Medical Officer at The Public Health Company. Prior to joining PHC, Dr. Fisk served as an Infectious Disease Specialist at Sansum Clinic.  He serves as the Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control at Cottage Health, leading the infection control team at Cottage, working with physicians and hospital leaders on the COVID Incident Command Center to ensure the highest level of preparation and care for patients. In early March 2020, before the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Santa Barbara County, Dr. Fisk advised that the virus was already spreading locally before community members were observing symptoms.


Dr. Fisk completed his medical degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and his Internal Medicine residency and Infectious Diseases fellowship at University of Michigan Medical Center. He is board certified in Infectious Diseases and a Fellow of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Chris Latko is the Chief Technology Officer at PHC. He joined as a Principal Software Architect where he played a key role in building out the platform. He has over 25 years experience in the technology sector holding positions at companies he started, Fortune 500 companies, and a multitude of startups both in the United States and Japan. He has spent the last decade designing, refining, and reimplementing architectures for hypergrowth startups such as Boxfish, Paxata (acquired by DataRobot), Banjo, and Globality. Chris earned two patents for designing a streaming data ingestion/data normalization platform.

Kendall Burman serves as PHC’s General Counsel and Chief Operating Officer. Prior to joining PHC, Burman held leadership roles at Alloy, a data and technology start-up for the progressive political market. Burman previously served as the Deputy General Counsel for Strategic Initiatives at the Department of Commerce and as Associate White House Counsel and Special Assistant to the President in the Obama Administration. She was also a counsel in the cybersecurity and data privacy practice at Mayer Brown and served as Chief Staff Counsel for President Obama’s 2008 campaign.


Burman is a graduate of Bowdoin College and received her J.D. from the University of Chicago where she was an editor of the law review. She was also was a fellow at both the New America Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Dr. Charity Dean is the CEO, Founder and Chairman of The Public Health Company, a venture-backed Silicon Valley technology startup. 


In August 2020 Dr. Dean founded PHC, envisioning a commercial-grade global biosecurity platform to empower enterprises to manage biorisk at scale. Dr. Dean’s obsession with building a new solution was born out of 24 years in public health and the recognition that Silicon Valley innovations in artificial intelligence and machine learning could birth this entirely new capability. Two years later PHC PharosTM is a game-changer for numerous businesses providing real-time, dynamic risk management across their global footprint and assets. 


Dr. Dean founded PHC having served as the Assistant Director for the California Department of Public Health where she was part of the executive team under Governor Newsom running the COVID-19 pandemic response. She co-founded and co-chaired California’s COVID-19 Testing Task Force and under her leadership, California went from ranking last in the nation for testing to first in three months. In 2019, Dr. Dean served as Acting State Public Health Officer overseeing 4,300 staff with an annual operating budget of $3.5 billion. 


Before her move to statewide office, she served as the Public Health Officer for Santa Barbara County and oversaw a myriad of disease outbreaks and biological threats; she also served as attending physician for TB, HIV, and homeless medicine at the Santa Barbara Health Care Centers. 


Dr. Dean was awarded Physician of the Year in 2018 by the Central Coast Medical Association and honored as one of the Women of the Year by the California State Legislature.


Dr. Dean is a co-author of Lessons from the COVID War. Her work during the pandemic is the focus of Michael Lewis’ book The Premonition. Dr. Dean has shared her insights about the danger of biological threats and the changes we must make before the next crisis in a number of interviews and podcasts.


Dr. Dean holds a Doctor of Medicine and Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine from Tulane University and a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from Oregon State University.

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