Tech & Science dictionary


[ twin-dem-ik ]

What does twindemic mean?

Twindemic refers to the dual threat of a severe flu outbreak on top of the COVID-19 pandemic in the fall and winter of 2020.

Our 2020 Word of the Year should come as no surprise. Find out what it is and read all about it here.

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Related words

virtual school, infodemic, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, wet market, contact tracing

Where does twindemic come from?

The term twindemic blends twin, here meaning “twofold” or “double,” and pandemic, a global outbreak of a disease, such as COVID-19. In other words, a twindemic represents “twin pandemics” of flu and COVID-19 at the same time. Twindemic may also be informed by a word closely related to pandemic, epidemic—a term for a widespread but more temporary disease and which generally better characterizes seasonal influenza (flu, for short). A similar blend to twindemic is infodemic, which combines information and epidemic.

Learn more about infodemic in our entry for the word, and discover how a pandemic differs from an epidemic in our article “‘Epidemic’ vs. ‘Pandemic’ vs. ‘Endemic’: What Do These Terms Mean?”

Twindemic was popularized by an August 2020 article by Jan Hoffman in the New York Times. Her article discussed the health and medical community’s concerns that people will not get flu shots due to various fears that getting those shots will make them more vulnerable to COVID-19. Experts worry that increased flu infections will magnify the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and overwhelm the healthcare system—resulting in a dual disaster dubbed a twindemic.

Hoffman credited Dr. L.J. Tan of the Immunization Action Coalition as an “early promoter” of the term twindemic. In an earlier, apparently independent coinage in July 2020, Twitter user @MaydNMerica offered twindemic as a term for two simultaneous pandemics of H1N1 and COVID-19.

After the publication of the New York Times’s article, the term twindemic was used up by many other media outlets reporting on the potential crisis. One notable report was a September 2020 TODAY show interview by NBC correspondent Sheinelle Jones with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the infectious disease expert who has become a leading public voice in the U.S. response to COVID-19. Jones asked Fauci if he was concerned about “a twindemic, as they say”; Fauci affirmed he was, though without specifically repeating the word.

Examples of twindemic

Experts are saying to get a flu shot before October to prevent a “twindemic.” Just got mine at CVS for free.
@sisi_ross, August 25, 2020
The concern about a twindemic is so great that officials around the world are pushing the flu shot even before it becomes available in clinics and doctors’ offices.
Jan Hoffman, New York Times, August 16, 2020
Flu Season Could Pose "Twindemic" For 2020, Doctors Say
Dr. Maria Simbra, CBS Pittsburgh (headline), August 19, 2020

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Who uses twindemic?

Prominent use of the term twindemic in media coverage helped further spread the new word into the mainstream, used alike by journalists, health experts, public figures, and everyday people.

While many people use twindemic in the context of urging people to get seasonal flu shots, others have employed the term with a sense of gallows humor.

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This is not meant to be a formal definition of twindemic like most terms we define on, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of twindemic that will help our users expand their word mastery.