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Epidemiology as a Scientific Discipline Essay

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Updated: Jul 9th, 2021


Ensuring the safety of public health is largely possible due to the development of epidemiology as the science involved in preventing and controlling the outbreaks of dangerous diseases. The activities of scholars engaged in this field encompass various goals and objectives, including the timely identification of the viruses’ causes, their pathogenesis, and other significant aspects. This work is aimed at analyzing epidemiology as a scientific discipline, assessing its historical development, and defining the concepts of outbreak and epidemic as frequent terms used in medicine.

The Field of Epidemiology

Epidemiology is a branch of healthcare that is aimed at controlling the causes and dynamics of the population morbidity. According to Last (1988), this science studies the ways of spreading health-related viruses and helps medical employees to be aware of what measures need to be taken to monitor their incidence and prevent threats. The use of modern diagnostic and evaluation mechanisms makes it possible to obtain reliable data regarding the specifics of certain ailments and factors contributing to their distribution. As practice shows, the importance of epidemiology in modern medicine is significant, given the periodic outbreaks of dangerous illnesses.

Historical Evolution of Epidemiology

The term of this science has appeared recently, although work in this direction was conducted in antiquity. According to Webb (2015), there is a sphere of historical epidemiology that studies people’ susceptibility to viruses based on the analysis of the development of individual social groups and civilization as a whole. As Last (1988) notes, since this science evaluates the effectiveness of healthcare programs and services, its emergence as an advanced industry occurred in the 20th century. However, microbiological studies were carried out earlier since researchers sought to understand the causes of the emergence of dangerous epidemics that had significantly more severe consequences than today. As a result, this science has become an essential link in the healthcare system.

Outbreak and Epidemic

The concepts of outbreak and epidemic are synonymous in their original context. Last (1988) gives the definition of both concepts, arguing that they reflect the occurrence of a certain disease among the population when the number of cases exceeds the allowable rate, and this illness becomes widespread. As an example, the outbreaks of flu, measles, and other diseases can manifest themselves. To assess one of the epidemic cases, the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak of 1976 will be evaluated.

The Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreak of 1976

The epidemic that occurred in Pennsylvania in 1976 became a landmark event for the healthcare industry as valuable experience for physicians. According to Last (1988), the largest peak of outbreak activity was on July 25th-27th. It is noteworthy that for four days before that, the American Legion Convention, which gave the name of the epidemic, had been held. The participants of this conference were infected with Legionella pneumophila bacteria, and the largest number of cases was in the age group from 50 to 59 (Last, 1988). If the Pennsylvania Department of Health had taken timely measures to protect infected people from other convention participants, the number of victims could have been reduced due to such quarantine. However, this epidemic claimed several dozen lives and became the event that went down in the history of medicine.


When evaluating epidemiology as a scientific discipline, it is essential to note its importance in the modern healthcare system and the benefits of studying the causes and outcomes of disease outbreaks. This area is quite technically advanced, and molecular diagnostics is an effective method. The assessment of the case that took place in Pennsylvania in 1976 confirms that being in the radius of an infection with a dangerous virus is fraught with severe consequences.


Last, J. M. (1988). A dictionary of epidemiology (2nd ed.). Toronto, Canada: Oxford University Press.

Webb, J. L. (2015). The historical epidemiology of global disease challenges. The Lancet, 385(9965), 322-323. Web.

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