An outbreak is when an illness happens in unexpected high numbers. It may stay in one area or extend more widely. An outbreak can last days or years. Sometimes, experts consider a single case of a contagious disease to be an outbreak. This may be true if it’s an unknown disease, if it’s new to a community, or if it’s been absent from a population for a long time.
An epidemic is when an infectious disease spreads quickly to more people than experts would expect. It usually affects a larger area than an outbreak.
A pandemic is a disease outbreak that spreads across countries or continents. It affects more people and takes more lives than an epidemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic when it became clear that the illness was severe and that it was spreading quickly over a wide area.