15 Of The Worst Epidemics And Pandemics In History
There are only a few things that can change the course of civilization. So far, wars affected the demographic, technology boosted the trade and economy, and viruses left behind millions of dead. As we fight off the recent plague, we can’t but look in the past to learn how people before us fought different epidemics and various pandemics.
It’s also important to note that we, as human civilization, survived everything that was thrown at our feet. That being said, here are 15 of the worst epidemics and pandemics that left behind devastated people, crushed countries, and a weak economy.
15. Prehistoric epidemic: Circa 3000 B.C.
Epidemics are not reserved only to modern times. Actually, one of the biggest epidemics ever happened almost 5,000 ago, when an entire village disappear. This village exists even today, and its located in China.
Archeologists and anthropologists discovered that bodies were stuffed in one house that was later burned down. No one was spared, and the skeleton of both toddlers and adults was found. The village was never inhabited again.
14. Plague of Athens: 430 B.C.
Around 430 B.C., once the war between Spart and Athens began, a new disaster kicked off. In a period of five years, around 100,000 people died from an epidemic. Until today it’s not known what this disease was, but according to documents from that period, it was something that had several symptoms.
Documents speak about the sudden disease in people. The disease would suddenly appear in people of great healthy, provoke redness in their eyes, and give fetid breath. Athenians took the refuge behind the long wall, but not even those walls could save them from this epidemic or Sparta.
13. The Black Death: 1346-1353
The Black Death came from Asia to Europe, and in a short period, it wiped out more than half of Europe’s population. It was caused by a strain of the bacterium Yersinia pestis that even exists today, and was spread by fleas on infected rodents.
The epidemic was so massive that bodies of victims were buried in mass graves. The plague was so strong that it changed the course of Europe’s history. Since so many people dead, labor became harder to find, and it eventually contributed to technological innovation.
12. American Plagues: 16th century
The American Plague was so strong that it killed almost 90% of the Western Hemisphere. This plague was actually mixed with diseases brought to the Americas by European explorers.
When Europeans came to explore the Western Hemisphere, new diseases arise. American Plagues included smallpox and contributed to the collapse of the Inca and Aztec civilizations.
11. Great Plague of London: 1665-1666
Great Britain was the last massive outbreak of Black Death. The plague started in April 1665 and spread super fast during the hot summer months. The leading cause of transmission were fleas from plague-infected rodents.
By the time the plague ended, killing 100,000 people or 15% often the population of London. This plague wasn’t the end of their suffering. On September 2, 1666, the Great Fire of London started, lasted for four days and destroyed the major part if the city.
10. Great Plague of Marseille: 1720-1723
According to historical documents, the Great Plague of Marseille started when a ship from named Grand-Saint-Antoine, came from the eastern Mediterranean. The vessel was carrying cargo, and although the ship was quarantined, the plague still got into the city.
Experts believe that infected rodents brought the plague from the ships to the city. Plaque spread quickly, and in the next three years, around 100,000 people died, or 30% of Marseille’s population.
9. Russian plague: 1770-1772
Moscow was ravaged by the plague so hard that as the outcome, it had an eruption of violence. Overnight the riots spread across the city and culminated in the murder of Archbishop Ambrosius. Archbishop urged people not to gather for worship, but sadly they were not ready to listen.
The empress of Russia, Catherine II, known as Catherine the Great, made a drastic move to calm people and moved all factories outside of Moscow. This plague killed around 100,000, and Catherine II had massive problems afterward to restore the order.
8. Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic: 1793
When Philadelphia was the capital of the State, the Yellow fever appeared. For unknown reason officers believed that slaves were immune to the fever, so they used slaved to nurse the sick, which just resulted in a higher number of infected.
This disease was transmitted by mosquitoes, which experienced a population boom due to hot weather in Philadelphia that year. The fever lasted until winter when mosquitos died, and the epidemic finally stopped. The total number of people who died was about 5,000.
7. Flu pandemic: 1889-1890
A flu pandemic is one of the most devastating moments in modern human history. Thanks to new transport links at the time, it was easy for influenza to ake a mess. In only a few months, the disease spread globally, killing one million people.
In only five weeks, the epidemic reaches its peak mortality. The earliest cases were noted in Russia. It’s believed that the virus spread through St. Petersburg before it made its way through Europe and the rest of the world.
6. American Polio Epidemic: 1916
A polio epidemic started in New York City and caused 27,000 cases and 6,000 deaths in the States. Did you know that President Roosevelt was diagnosed with polio in 1921, at the age of 39? This disease mainly affected children and would leave survivors with permanent disabilities.
Polio appeared in the States sporadically until the Salk vaccine was developed in 1954. The last polio case in the States was noted in 1979. Worldwide vaccination reduced the disease, although it’s not yet completely eradicated.
5. Spanish Flu: 1918-1920
Around 500 million people died once they were infected with Spanish Flu. The flu spread fast, and lethality was fast. Poor wartime nutrition that many were experiencing during World War I didn’t help.
Although the flu is named Spanish Flu, the disease didn’t start in Spain. During the War, Spain was a neutral nation during the war, and the media was free, so the press published early accounts of the illness. As a result, the flue remained known as the Spanish flu.
4. Asian Flu: 1957-1958
The Asian Flu pandemic hit the world suddenly, starting in China. The disease took more than 1 million lives because it was spreading fast.
In just one year, the flue traveled, from China to Singapore, and States in a period of only one year – 1957. In the States, around 116,000 people died, while globally, the number reached 1.1 million.
3. AIDS Pandemic And Epidemic: 1981-present day
Since it was first identified, AIDS took almost 35 million lives. HIV, which is the virus that causes AIDS, likely developed from a chimpanzee virus that mutated and transferred to humans in West Africa in the 1920s. In the late 20th century, AIDS was a pandemic.
Now, around almost 40 million people are living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. So fat, there is no one cure, but medicine enables people to live normally with regular treatment. As of early 2020, two people have been cured of HIV.
2. West African Ebola Epidemic: 2014-2016
Ebola first appeared in West Africa between 2014 and 2016, with 28,600 reported cases and 11,325 deaths. The first case was in Guinea in 2013, to spread from there to Liberia and Sierra Leone. A smaller number of fatal cases happened in Mali, Senegal, Nigeria, the States, and Europe.
So far, there is no cure for Ebola, and efforts for finding a vaccine are ongoing. The first known case of Ebola occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976 and in Sudan. Experts believe that the virus may have originated in bats.
1. Zika Virus epidemic: 2015-present day
So far, scientists don’t know just how severe the effect of Zika virus is. Years must pass before we know that for sure. In the meantime, scientists are trying to bring the infection under control. The Zika virus is usually spread through mosquitoes of the Aedes genus, although it can also be sexually transmitted in humans.
Zika is usually not harmful to children or adults, but it can affect infants and cause birth defects. The type of mosquitoes that carry Zika love warm and humid climates. Therefore, for them, Central America and South America are the ideal territories. So far, it’s known that virus is present in some parts of the southern United States.