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10 deadliest pandemics in recorded history

Published : 17 Mar 2020, 12:05

Sahos Desk

The global population witnessed so many deadly pandemics in the course of human history when cholera, bubonic plague, smallpox and influenza appeared as brutal killers over centuries.

UNB analysed 10 deadliest pandemics that stirred the globe and literally changed the course of human history, killing large percentages of the global population.

Compared to its other predecessors, coronavirus or COVID-19 may not seem as deadly as the world saw in its history of civilization; however, it could soon be classified as one of the deadliest pandemics.
The predecessor of coronavirus outbreak can be thought to be the ‘Spanish Flu Pandemic’ appeared in 1920. It had some differences with coronavirus but has a connection in numeric ideals as it has come back just after 100 years in 2020.

The Spanish Flu Pandemic infected third of the world’s population and claimed the lives of 20–50 million people.

Spanish Flu Pandemic had some differences than the 2020 coronavirus outbreak as it had claimed lives of completely healthy young adults leaving children and people with weaker immune systems.

Among the outbreaks of various diseases defined as pandemic, especially smallpox, which throughout history has killed between 300-500 million people in its 12,000-year existence.

Analysing data from World Health Organization (WHO), research organisations and global history available online, UNB categorised 10 pandemics from the human history. Ten global pandemics begin from number 10.

Antonine Plague in between 165 and 180 AD

The ancient pandemic, ‘Antonine Plague’ also known as ‘Plague of Galen’, took the lives of five million people in Asia Minor, Egypt, Greece and Italy in between 165 and 180 AD.

The Plague of Galen is thought to have been either Smallpox or Measles though the true cause is still unknown.

The unknown disease was brought back to Rome by soldiers returning from Mesopotamia around 165AD; unknowingly, they had spread a disease which would end up killing over 5 million people and decimating the Roman army.

Plague of Justinian from 541 to 542 AD

Justinian Plague is thought to have killed half of the population in Europe in 541 and 542 AD. The plague was an outbreak of the bubonic plague that afflicted the Byzantine Empire and Mediterranean port cities, and claimed lives of 25 million people in its year-long reign of terror.

Bubonic plague is one of three types of plague caused by bacterium Yersinia pestis. Bubonic plague is mainly spread by infected fleas from small animals. It may also result from exposure to the body fluids from a dead plague-infected animal.

The Justinian Plague left its mark on the world, killing up to an estimated 5,000 people per day and eventually resulting in the deaths of 40 percent of the city of Constantinople.

The Black Death in between 1346 and 1353

From 1346 to 1353, an outbreak of the plague ravaged Europe, Africa and Asia, with an estimated death toll between 75 and 200 million people.

The plague is thought to have originated in Asia, and jumped continents via the fleas living on the rats that so frequently lived aboard merchant ships.

Ports being major urban centres at the time were the perfect breeding ground for the rats and fleas, and thus the insidious bacterium flourished, devastating three continents in its wake. This was also identified as Bubonic Plague.

Third Cholera Pandemic from 1852 to 1860

Considered the most deadly of the seven cholera pandemics, the third major outbreak of cholera in the 19th century lasted for eight years from 1852 to 1860.

Third Cholera Pandemic was originated in India, spreading from the Ganges River Delta before tearing through Asia, Europe, North America and Africa that claimed the lives of over a million people.

British physician John Snow tracked cases of cholera and eventually identified that contaminated water as the means of transmission for the disease.

Unfortunately the same year as his discovery (1854) went down as the worst year of the pandemic, in which 23,000 people died in Great Britain.

Flu Pandemic from 1889 to 1890

‘Asiatic Flu’ or ‘Russian Flu’ as it was called this strain was thought to be an outbreak of the ‘Influenza A’ virus subtype ‘H2N2’, though recently ascertained as the ‘Influenza A’ virus subtype ‘H3N8’.

The first cases were observed in May 1889 in three separate and distant locations, Bukhara in Central Asia (Turkestan), Athabasca in northwestern Canada, and Greenland.

The rapid growth of population in 19th century, specifically in urban areas, helped the flu spread.

Though it was the first true epidemic in the era of bacteriology and much was learned from it. In the end, ‘1889-1890 Flu Pandemic’ claimed lives of over a million individuals.

Sixth Cholera Pandemic from 1910-1911

Like its five previous incarnations, the Sixth Cholera Pandemic originated in India and killed over 800,000, before spreading to the Middle East, North Africa, Eastern Europe and Russia.

The Sixth Cholera Pandemic was also the source of the last American outbreak of Cholera from 1910 to 1911.

American health authorities, with knowledge from the past, quickly sought to isolate the infected, and in the end only 11 deaths occurred in the US.

Meanwhile, by 1923 Cholera cases had been cut down dramatically, although it was still a constant in India.

Spanish Flu Pandemic in between 1918 and 1920

Thought to be the predecessor of coronavirus outbreak in 2020 the world struggling with, the deadly outbreak of influenza, colloquially known as ‘Spanish Flu’, tore across the globe in between 1918 and 1920.

The Spanish Flu Pandemic infected third of the world’s population and claimed the lives of 20–50 million people.

Of the 500 million people infected in the 1918 pandemic, the mortality rate was estimated at 10 percent to 20 percent, with up to 25 million deaths in the first 25 weeks alone.

Spanish Flu Pandemic in 1918 was little different than the 2020 coronavirus outbreak as it took lives of completely healthy young adults leaving children and people with weaker immune systems.

Earlier influenzas from the Spanish one, victimized juveniles and the elderly or already weakened patients.

Asian Flu in between 1956 and 1958

‘Asian Flu’ was a pandemic outbreak of ‘Influenza A’ of the ‘H2N2 subtype’, that originated in China in 1956 and lasted until 1958.

In its two-year spree, Asian Flu traveled from the Chinese province of Guizhou to Singapore, Hong Kong, and the United States.

Estimates for the death toll of the ‘Asian Flu’ vary depending on the source, but the World Health Organization (WHO) places the final tally at approximately 2 million deaths, 69,800 of those in the US alone.

Hong Kong Flu Pandemic in 1968

Flu Pandemic in 1968, often categorised as the ‘Hong Kong Flu’, was caused by the H3N2 strain of the Influenza A virus, a genetic offshoot of the H2N2 subtype.

From the first reported case on July 13, 1968 in Hong Kong, it took only 17 days before outbreaks of the virus were reported in Singapore and Vietnam, and within three months had spread to the Philippines, India, Australia, Europe and the United States.

While the 1968 pandemic had a comparatively low mortality rate (0.5%) it still resulted in the deaths of more than a million people, including 500,000 residents of Hong Kong, approximately 15 percent of its population at the time.

HIV/AIDS Pandemic at its peak from 2005 to 2012

HIV/AIDS was first identified in Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1976, and later truly proven itself as a global pandemic, killing more than 36 million people since 1981.

Currently, there are between 31 and 35 million people living with HIV, the vast majority of those are in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 5 percent of the population is infected, roughly 21 million people.

As awareness has grown, new treatments have been developed that make HIV far more manageable, and many of those infected go on to lead productive lives.

Between 2005 and 2012 the annual global deaths from HIV/AIDS dropped from 2.2 million to 1.6 million. Death toll by HIV/AIDS was estimated as 36 million in total.

The present pandemic

The World Health Organization on March 11 declared the coronavirus crisis a pandemic but added that it is not too late for countries to act.

The death toll from coronavirus or COVID-19 reached 6,518 globally as of Monday. It has so far infected 169,719 people around the world, according to worldometer.

COVID-19 is affecting 157 countries and territories around the world and one international conveyance (the Diamond Princess cruise ship harboured in Yokohama, Japan).

Bangladesh has so far reported eight cases. Four of these patients had come from coronavirus infected countries in Europe. On Sunday, the government announced that the first three patients had been discharged.

Source:UNB

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