Ernster, Virginia L. Department of Epidemiology and International Health, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, California.
Last reviewed:January 2019
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The study of the distribution of diseases in populations and of factors that influence the occurrence of disease. Epidemiology is the investigation of the mass aspects of disease. In particular, epidemiology examines epidemic (excess) and endemic (always present) diseases; it is based on the observation that most diseases do not occur randomly, but are related to environmental and personal characteristics that vary by place, time, and subgroup of the population. An epidemiologist attempts to determine who is prone to a particular disease; where risk of the disease is highest; when the disease is most likely to occur, and its trends over time; what exposure its victims have in common; how much the risk is increased through exposure; and how many cases of the disease could be avoided by eliminating the exposure (Fig. 1). See also: Disease; Epidemic
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