Definition: The animal version of a epidemic – a specific disease occurring in the animal population that exceeds the level of expectation.
Origin: 18th Century – entered the English Language from a French varient. The word is based on the Greek epi, meaning upon and zoion, meaning animal.
Why this word?
With the threat of both bird and swine ‘Flus in recent years, there had been much talk of potential epidemics should it spread to the human population. However, in many cases of diseases that begin in animals and jump across into humans, the epizootic came first. A good example of this was the outbreak of the West Nile Virus across the USA in 2001-2002, where, following the outbreak of an epizootic in birds and horses, some 4,000+ people were infected when your friendly local mosquito decided to see if she could turn the eipzootic into an epidemic.
How and when to use this word in a sentence:
If you work as a veterinarian or in a centre for disease control – or, indeed, as a biologist – you can probably get away with using this one. If you have no relationship to these fields of study and you decide to use this word, you will look like a ponce.