A look at pandemics throughout history

Covid-19 is the latest in a long line of health disasters

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This virus isn't the first humans have had to deal with

Sophie Dorrance-Minch, Staff writer

Pandemics have a long history.

 When it comes to travel, infectious diseases follow and some spread rapidly like the novel coronavirus (aka. COVID-19). Civilization also spreads diseases due to more opportunities to increased contact with other people.

Some pandemics even persist as a common illness that may need vaccines and/or drugs.

In history, human societies believed that diseases were inflicted by gods and spirits. They see it as a sign of their wrath. The lack of science they had back then limited their perception, which led to chaos, often resulting in lots of deaths.

For example, people believed that sick people were actually cursed by witches and lots of innocent people faced unnecessary trials. Much like pandemics, panic is endless. Revelry in the dark isn’t it?

Fortunately, we currently have more medical knowledge and don’t rely on superstitions anymore. However, that doesn’t stop the spread of pandemics. Transportation, trade, increased animal interactions, and urbanization proceeds to spread diseases, even to this day, and people still panic to the extreme.

Animals come to play when it comes to being a main cause of pandemics. So far the vast majority of pandemics had an animal host before spreading to people. People aren’t always aware that the virus came from animals back then.

Here are some pandemics that history suffered:

  • Antonine Plague:

Time period: 165-180

Death toll: 5 million

Type/Pre-human host: Smallpox or measles

  • Japanese Smallpox Epidemic:

Time period: 735-737

Death toll: 1 million

Type/Pre-human host: Variola major virus

  • Plague Of Justinian:

Time period: 541-542

Death toll: 30-50 million

Type/Pre-human host: Yersinia pestis bacteria/ Rats, fleas

  • Black Death:

Time period: 1347-1351

Death toll: 200 million

Type/Pre-human host: Yersinia pestis bacteria/ Rats, fleas

  • New World Smallpox Outbreak:

Time period: 1520-onward

Death toll: 56 million

Type/Pre-human host: Variola major virus

  • Great Plague Of London:

Time period: 1665

Death toll: 100,000

Type/pre-human host: Yersinia pestis bacteria/ Rats, fleas

  • Italian Plague:

Time period: 1629-1631

Death toll: 1 million

Type/Pre-human host: Yersinia pestis bacteria/ Rats, fleas

  • Cholera Pandemics:

Time period: 1817-1923

Death toll: More than 1 million

Type/Pre-human host: V. Cholerae bacteria

  • Third Plague:

Time period: 1885

Death toll: 12 million (India & China)

Type/Pre-human host: Yersinia pestis bacteria/ Rats, fleas

  • Yellow Fever:

Time period: Late 1800s

Death toll: 100,000-150,000 (U.S.)

Type/Pre-human host: Virus/Mosquitoes

  • Russian Flu:

Time period: 1889-1890

Death toll: 1 million

Type/Pre-human host: H2H2 (Avian origin)

  • Spanish Flu:

Time period: 1918-1919

Death toll: 40-50 million

Type/Pre-human host: H1N1 virus/ Pigs

  • Asian Flu:

Time period: 1957-1958

Death toll: 1.1 million

Type/Pre-human host: H2N2 virus

  • Hong Kong Flu:

Time period: 1968-1970

Death toll: 1 million

Type/Pre-human host: H3N2 virus

  • HIV/AIDS:

Time period: 1981-present

Death toll: 25-35 millon

Type/Pre-human host: Virus/Chimpanzees

  • Swine Flu:

Time period: 2009-2010

Death toll: 200,000

Type/Pre-human host: H1N1 virus/ Pigs

  • SARS:

Time period: 2002-2003

Death toll: 770

Type/Pre-human host: Coronavirus/Bats, Civets

  • Ebola:

Time period: 2014-2016

Death toll: 11,000

Type/Pre-human host: Ebolavirus/Wild animals

  • MERS:

Time period: 2015-present

Death toll: 850

Type/Pre-human host: Coronavirus/Bats, Camels

  • COVID-19:

Time period: 2019-present

Death toll: 101,551 (currently)

Type/Pre-human host: Unknown (Possibly pangolins, bats, snakes/originated from Wuhan, China’s animal market)

 

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