community spread
(kuh.MYOO.nuh.tee spred) n. A serious outbreak of a contagious disease; the spread of a contagious disease among numerous members of a community as opposed to a few isolated cases.

Example Citation:
Adding to the flurry of bad news on the medical front, the World Health Organization said there is evidence that the time from exposure to development of the illness may be as long as 14 days. That suggests that many more people are likely infected, that people may be infectious longer and that quarantine periods may have to be extended. It was believed that SARS was spread by droplets and could be contracted only by close proximity to an infected person sneezing or coughing. An airborne virus would be far more infectious. ...

Paul Gully, senior director-general of the population health and public health branch of Health Canada, said "there is a real concern about community spread" based on the latest news out of Hong Kong.
—André Picard, "Outbreak may still be in its infancy, experts warn," The Globe and Mail, March 31, 2003

Earliest Citation:
Outbreaks of influenza in two more states were reported Thursday by the national Centers for Disease Control, bringing to 15 the number of states listing flu activity.

The CDC said Michigan and Minnesota reported influenza epidemics among school children in addition to an outbreak in a Michigan nursing home and a Minnesota child daycare center.

Other states which have reported outbreaks, or community spread, were Alaska, Montana and New York. Ten states listed individual cases of flu.
—"Domestic News," United Press International, January 6, 1983

Notes:
Some new words, like some new biological contagions, also exhibit community spread, releasing themselves from someone's brain as a "fiery spurt of instant poetry" (to use Anthony Burgess' evocative phrase) and gradually "infecting" other minds as they move, meme-like, through the culture. Community spread is itself an example of such a term, appearing dozens of times in the past ten days or so as the coverage (and the threat) of SARS grows.

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