From Plague to Coronavirus A World History of Epidemics and Pandemics

(ORDO NEWS) — Unfortunately, the coronavirus has been and remains one of the most pressing agendas of the day. But, fortunately, this certainly dangerous infection is still not the most deadly disease that a person has encountered.

The history of epidemics and pandemics in the world has many sad pages and is always associated with a large number of patients who need care and treatment, like the American soldiers in the Waco hospital, Texas, who were among the first to become infected with the Spanish flu virus.

In the days when everyone is talking only about the coronavirus, it is important to remember that global epidemics and pandemics in the history of mankind, which covered many countries and claimed thousands and millions of lives, have happened before.

There is no escape from this. And it is only important to remember that all the infections listed and not mentioned in the text were on the decline. And many were even finally defeated, which leaves hope for a favorable outcome this time as well.

Prehistoric epidemic: circa 3000 BC

Roughly 5,000 years ago, a mysterious disease decimated an entire region in China. Archaeologists have discovered several places in the northeast of the country in which houses are preserved, literally stuffed with skeletons.

Perhaps the history of epidemics and pandemics in the world began precisely here, because scientists found out that this infection was fatal for people of all ages, and the disease spread so rapidly that the survivors simply had neither the time nor the strength to properly bury the dead.

Today, the excavations, called “Hamin Manga”, are one of the oldest examples of such epidemics on Earth.

Plague of Athens: 430-426 BC.

It is still not known for certain what caused the epidemic, which is historically considered to be the plague, although there are versions that for 5 years the inhabitants of Athens could have suffered from typhoid fever, Ebola fever, and some other infections.

One way or another, adding to the sad list of epidemics and pandemics throughout history, this event, according to tentative estimates, claimed 100,000 lives, which of course is a lot for the ancient period. The epidemic ended up being more deadly than the war between Athens and Sparta.

Plague of Antoninus: 165-180 AD AD

Another sad line in the list of epidemics and pandemics occurred during the Roman Empire. It is still unknown what kind of disease it really was.

The mysterious epidemic is also considered to be the plague, although there are versions that it was smallpox. The Roman Empire lost about 5,000,000 people when the army returned home with a victory and, along with trophies, brought a deadly disease that did not spare both soldiers and civilians.

Plague of Cyprian: 250-271 AD

Unfortunately, there are many blank spots in the history of epidemics and pandemics in the world, especially such ancient ones. The deadly disease, which is named after Bishop Cyprian of Carthage, who described the epidemic, is also called the plague, although scientists do not know for certain what kind of infection it was.

The epidemic that raged for several years at its peak claimed up to 5,000 lives. In a day. In Rome alone, not to mention other cities of the empire. At least 1,000,000 people died.

Plague of Justinian: 541-750 AD

All subsequent epidemics and pandemics in the history of mankind, one way or another, owe this mournful period. The thing is that this is the first officially and sufficiently detailed documented pandemic caused by the plague.

The disease that broke out during the reign of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I swept the entire civilized world and reminded of itself for two centuries. In total, according to experts, the pandemic claimed about 90,000,000 lives.

From Plague to Coronavirus A World History of Epidemics and Pandemics 2Although Justinian himself found only the first 20 years of the plague, it entered the list of epidemics and pandemics throughout history under his name

Black Death: 1346-1353

Epidemics and pandemics in history mostly come in several waves. The second plague pandemic in world history that raged throughout Europe and the East for several years was called the Black Death.

During this time, up to 200,000,000 people, or about 60% of the entire population of the Earth, died. In addition to the highest mortality, the plague became the impetus for the development of Europe in technical and political terms.

Epidemic “Kokoliztli”: 1545-154

An outbreak of a form of viral hemorrhagic fever in Mexico and Central America takes its name from the Aztec word cocoliztli, which means pest. However, modern researchers of world epidemics and pandemics in history question hemorrhagic fever and are inclined to believe that 15,000,000 people died from typhoid fever.

American Plague: 16th Century

In the list of epidemics and pandemics throughout history, the events of this century stand apart. Under this common name, several epidemics that raged in the Western Hemisphere are united due to various infections introduced by Europeans.

In particular, the American plague exterminated up to 90% of the entire indigenous population of America, contributing to the collapse of the civilizations of the Incas and Aztecs. Thus, the local peoples were so exhausted by epidemics that they simply could not resist the invaders.

Great Plague in London: 1665-1666

One of the sad and tragic pages in the history of world epidemics and pandemics occurred in the year of the Three Sixes.

The last major outbreak of the Black Death in the UK claimed the lives of 100,000 people, including 15% of Londoners, and at the end of the epidemic, another tragedy awaited the capital – the Great Fire of London, which destroyed most of the city in four days.

From Plague to Coronavirus A World History of Epidemics and Pandemics 3Usually, recalling the Middle Ages, they say that this is the most terrible time in the history of epidemics and pandemics in the world. However, it should be remembered that, among other things, the bitter experience gained over the centuries of confronting various infections and diseases helped humanity prevent a return to these dark times

Marseille Plague: 1720-1722

The plague epidemic, which began with the port of Marseille and subsequently covered several more cities in Provence, killed at least 100,000 people.

In the three years that the infection raged, a third of the population of Marseille died. In the list of epidemics and pandemics in France, this outbreak of plague has become one of the most massive in modern times.

Plague epidemic in Russia 1770–1772

Epidemics and pandemics in the history of Russia occurred, on average, no less than in other European countries of that time.

The last plague epidemic in Central Russia to date, which claimed the lives of up to 100,000 people in Moscow alone, occurred in the early 1770s. The infection that came from the Northern Black Sea region during the Russian-Turkish war led to riots and riots, the suppression of which, among other things, helped to defeat the epidemic.

The cholera pandemic: 19th century

Perhaps never before have global epidemics and pandemics in human history been recorded in such detail and detail. Thanks to the data obtained, it can be understood that during the 19th century the world faced at least three times a terrifying cholera pandemic in its scale.

First outbreak 1816-1826 in Europe and Asia claimed at least 100,000 lives, the second in 1829-1851. was no less deadly and also affected North America. Well, the third pandemic of 1852-1860 was the largest, the victims of which were more than 1,000,000 people.

Third plague pandemic: 1855-1960

In the list of epidemics and pandemics throughout history, this century is marked by another round of development of the infection, so infamous to people.

Within a few decades, the plague had spread to every inhabited continent, becoming one of the deadliest pandemics in human history. The exact number of deaths is unknown, but in China and India alone, the plague killed at least 12,000,000 people.

Smallpox: 1877-1977

After the last death from smallpox was recorded in 1978, the history of epidemics and pandemics in the world no longer knew about this infection, although the smallpox virus itself has been known to mankind throughout its history.

During this time, over 500,000,000 people across the planet died from smallpox, but the disease was defeated only by the creation of a special vaccine.

Influenza pandemic of 1889–1890

Epidemics and pandemics in history are often given geographical names, often after the location of the outbreak. The last pandemic in the 19th century, which in two years claimed the lives of more than 1,000,000 in the world, became known as the “Asian flu” or “Russian flu”.

The causative agent of this disease has long been considered the influenza A virus of the H2N2 subtype, but recently it has been reliably established that the influenza A virus of the H3N8 subtype is to blame.

Spanish flu: 1918-1920

In the list of epidemics and pandemics in the entire history of mankind, the “Spanish flu” is included as the most massive in terms of the number of people infected and dying from the flu. In just a few years, it claimed the lives of up to 100,000,000 people.

At the same time, the number of people infected with the influenza A virus subtype H1N1 exceeded half a billion people. In total, about 5% of the world’s population died from the “Spanish flu”.

From Plague to Coronavirus A World History of Epidemics and Pandemics 4

Asian flu: 1957-1958

Among the list of epidemics and pandemics, the “Asian flu” has often appeared for centuries, however, it should be understood that this is not literally the same infection.

The pandemic that broke out in China was caused by a new virus that was a mixture of several existing avian influenza viruses. The rapid spread of the infection around the world has led to the death of more than 1,100,000 people in Asia and the United States.

Hong Kong flu: 1968-1969

It took about 10 years for the influenza A virus of the H2N2 subtype to mutate into H3N2 and become the causative agent of the Hong Kong flu. At the end of the 1960s, this infection killed about 1,000,000 people worldwide, becoming one of the most contagious and lethal epidemics and pandemics in history.

HIV epidemic: since 1980

For more than half a century, humanity has been fighting the human immunodeficiency virus. During this time, the disease was not defeated, although antiretroviral therapy can slow down the course of the disease.

In total, HIV/AIDS has claimed the lives of more than 35,000,000 people to date. With the light hand of the media in the history of epidemics and pandemics in the world, this virus entered the mass consciousness as the “plague of the 20th century.”

A/H1N1 swine flu pandemic: 2009-2010

Influenza A virus subtype H1N1 is more commonly known as “swine” or “Mexican”. This infection also covered almost the entire planet and claimed almost 600,000 lives.

Having become one of the deadliest in the 21st century, the “swine” flu has clearly shown that epidemics and pandemics in the history of mankind, unfortunately, will continue into the third millennium.

Ebola epidemic in West Africa: 2013-2015

Among all the epidemics and pandemics in the world, Ebola is the most deadly for humans today. The epidemic began in West Africa for the first time in the history of this region, for which local specialists, who had no experience in combating this infection, turned out to be unprepared.

Thanks to the help of the international community, it was possible to stop the epidemic, but still more than 11,000 people died.

COVID-19 pandemic: since 2019

The sad list of epidemics and pandemics throughout human history continues. The latest pandemic to date, in which the whole world lives, is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The pandemic has affected all inhabited continents, claiming over 5 million lives at the time of writing.

Despite the fact that coronavirus is a very dangerous infection , I would like to believe that its spread will soon be stopped and the number of victims of COVID-19 will stop growing.

It can already be said that global epidemics and pandemics in modern history have not known such unprecedented measures to reduce the incidence rate.

As of now, coronavirus in terms of R0 (the number of cases reproduced on average by one infection) is superior to ordinary influenza and Ebola, but inferior to rubella and measles. Which, however, does not allow treating COVID-19 super-frivolously.


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