Mar 31, 2006

Rapid Rhetoric: EPIZOOTIC

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This is an irregular feature - both in frequency and oddness - dedicated to a word I came across that I have never previously used.

n., adj. an epizootic is the nonhuman equivalent of a disease epidemic, meaning that significantly higher numbers of animals are infected with a given disease than would normally be expected. As is the case with human epidemics, high population density is an enabling factor in epizootics.

Modern bioengineering research is focused on harnessing the microbes that cause epizootics and manipulating them to become living agents of pest control. Due to the pathogen's specificity to a particular host, the risk from these modified microbes to humans and other non-specific life forms in the environment is minimal.

The word is derived from the Greek epi- "upon" and zoos - "animals."

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I like this feature, Mike. Keep up the good work!

Stephanie said...

So, Mike, does that mean that the bird flu is epizootic? Or, because humans can contract it as well it's epidemic?

historymike said...

Good question, Stephanie.

Yes, at the moment avain influenza H5N1 is epizootic, as it is killing birds all over Asia, Europe, and Africa.

It needs to mutate to become a purely human pathogen. Right now it is a zoonosis, or a disease that can be transmitted from other animals to humans.

It has to mutate into a human pathogen before it could become an epidemic.

M A F said...

So, if I am to understand the definition, the avian flu would be classified as epizootic, as has Stephanie.

historymike said...

You are correct, MAF.

Stephanie said...

Thank you for that clarification, Mike. Where did the interest in disease come from?

historymike said...

Hmmm...I'm not sure, Stephanie. I have always been fascinated with disease and biology; maybe I should have gone to med school.

Stephanie said...

Naw, writing about it like this gives us laymen a chance to learn about it without having to actually contract the illnesses.

Anonymous said...

This information on the word EPIZOOTIC was fascinating. Thanks! My mother used that word (and wrongly I now see) when I was a child. She would often say such things as "Make sure you put your shoes on (or your raincoat or whatever) so you don't catch "the epizootics"! My sister and I never knew quite was an epizootic was, but we knew we surely didn't want to catch it! :-)