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The 10 Most Terrible Plagues In Human History

The term epidemic describes infectious diseases that are rapidly spreading among people of a certain population. If the epidemic spreads to most or all of the world, the epidemic will then become a pandemic. Thus, a pandemic can be described as an intercontinental, worldwide, or global pandemic.

The 10 Most Terrible Plagues In Human History

As the Covid-19 pandemic unfolds, epidemics tend to spread faster in our modern globalized world. In fact, many leading scientists and experts on the subject consider the threat of epidemics to be a major threat to humanity as a whole, even more so than climate change. Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft and one of the richest people in the world, is one of them. He has warned the world about new major disease outbreaks that will spread rapidly around the world for several years now.

But plagues and pandemics of course existed long before our modern globalized world. While they may not spread quickly, the lack of medical knowledge, and effective measures against them in the meantime, actually tends to make the epidemic even more deadly. as the following list of epidemics will show you. This list of diseases ranks the deadliest epidemics in known human history according to the estimated number of deaths these major global outbreaks caused.


Just a note: Every one of these epidemics has tragically claimed the lives of over a million people…


The 10 worst plagues in human history:

(as of March 2020)


Approximately 140 million deaths (some estimates as high as 200 million)

Description of a 14th-century miniature showing the people of Toumai (present-day Belgium) burying victims of the Black Death
Description of a 14th-century miniature showing the people of Toumai (present-day Belgium) burying victims of the Black Death

Time: 1346 - 1353 (maybe longer)

Areas affected: Mostly Europe (almost half of the contemporary European population has died), the Middle East and North Africa (about a third of the contemporaneous Middle Eastern and North African diaspora have died)


Disease: Plague

Caused by: Yersinia pestis bacteria

Transmission: Oriental rat fleas carry the bacteria, which infects humans through the bite of a flea.


Origin: Oriental rat flea, carrying Yersinia pestis, native to Central or East Asia. They then spread to the Crimean Peninsula along the Silk Road. From there, sailors unwittingly brought infected fleas on board to Italy. The bacteria then rapidly spread practically throughout Europe with only a few notable exceptions (e.g. Milan and the Kingdom of Poland).


 

2. Spanish Flu

Approximately 50 million deaths (some estimates as high as 100 million)

American soldiers at Camp Funston (Kansas) got the Spanish flu in 1918
American soldiers at Camp Funston (Kansas) got the Spanish flu in 1918

Time: 1918 - 1920

Affected Areas: Most regions of the world (27% of the contemporary world population are infected), mainly: United States, China, India, Western Europe, West Africa, East Africa, Southeast Asia, South America


illness: flu (aka flu)

Cause: Influenza A H1N1 Virus

Transmission: Infected people spread the virus to others when they cough and sneeze.


Origin: The virus originated in the United States or China. The outbreak occurred in the final year of World War I, contributing to the rapid spread of the Influenza virus. American soldiers infected with the virus brought the virus to Europe and Liberia, Africa (a colony of the Americas at the time), from where it quickly spread around the world. Most of the countries involved in World War I censored any news about the pandemic to keep morale high for their militaries.

As a neutral party to the war, Spain was one of the only affected countries to publicly report an outbreak of H1N1 Influenza, hence the global nickname “Flu” Spain”, although it does not actually originate in Spain, as Spain is the worst affected country.

 

3. AIDS pandemic

About 36 million people died

A graffiti depicting "AIDS kills" in South Africa, one of the countries hardest hit by the AIDS epidemic
A graffiti depicting "AIDS kills" in South Africa, one of the countries hardest hit by the AIDS epidemic

Time: 1959 - ongoing

Affected regions: Most of the world, especially sub-Saharan Africa.


Disease: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)

Caused by: Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

Transmission: Primarily through sexual contact with an infected person, but the virus can also be spread through blood transfusions, hypodermic needles, breastfeeding, and the fetus of an infected mother during pregnancy.


Origin: This virus originated in Central Africa, more precisely in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. For reasons that are not entirely clear, the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) that affects chimpanzees, gorillas, and other monkeys was transferred into humans and mutated into HIV. The virus then spread rapidly throughout sub-Saharan Africa. In the early 1970s, the virus reached the United States and has since spread globally.


 

4. The Plague of the Justinians

About 30 million people died (some estimates are as high as 50 million)

Describe the victims of the Justinian plague in an unknown city on the Mediterranean Sea
Describe the victims of the Justinian plague in an unknown city on the Mediterranean Sea

Time: 541 - 542

Areas Affected: Byzantine Empire, especially its capital Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) and practically all of the area around the Mediterranean Sea (about 20% of the contemporary population Total population) dead world)


Disease: Plague

Caused by: Yersinia pestis bacteria

Transmission: Oriental rat fleas carry the bacteria, which infects humans through the bite of a flea.


Origin: Oriental rat flea, carrying Yersinia pestis, native to Central or East Asia. Rats with fleas eventually spread to Egypt. From there, sailors unwittingly brought flea-infested rats on board ships to Constantinople (present-day Istanbul). From there the bacteria spread across the Mediterranean coasts. Among those infected was Justinian I., emperor of the Byzantine Empire at the time. The plague is therefore named after him (however, Justinian I. ultimately survived the disease).

 

5. Third Plague Pandemic

About 22 million deaths

Chinese victims of the Third Great Plague, photo taken in 1911
Chinese victims of the Third Great Plague, photo taken in 1911

Time: 1855 - 1960

Areas Affected: Primarily China and India, to a lesser extent most of the rest of the world


Epidemic: Plague

Caused by: Yersinia pestis bacteria

Transmission: Oriental rat fleas carry the bacteria, which infects humans through the bite of a flea.


Origin: Rats from Central Asia, carrying infected fleas, brought Yersinia pestis bacteria to Yunnan province, China, where the epidemic began circa 1855. The disease eventually spread to Hong Kong, then was the major trading post of the British Empire. From there, merchants and sailors unwittingly spread the rats throughout most of the world with constant plagues across the continents. As a major trading partner, British-ruled India has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic as the virus has spread particularly rapidly throughout the Indian subcontinent.


Tens of millions of Indians died from the Plague. The pandemic lasted for more than 100 years until 1960, making it the longest pandemic in recorded history.


 

6. Cocoliztli Disease

Approximately 10 million deaths (about three-quarters of the contemporary population of New Spain) (some estimates are as high as 15 million)

Relics of victims of the Cocoliztli Pandemic found in Chalco Valley, Mexico
Relics of victims of the Cocoliztli Pandemic found in Chalco Valley, Mexico

Time: 1545 - 1548

Affected regions: New Spain (present-day Mexico and Guatemala)


Illness : Unknown

Cause: Unknown

Transmitted by: Unknown


Origin: The origin of the epidemic is still unknown. Some evidence suggests that Spanish colonists conquered and settled what is now Mexico at the time. The latest DNA studies suggest that they may have inadvertently brought a rare European strain of Salmonella enterica bacteria to the Americas and infected native populations. However, common Salmonella symptoms do not match contemporary eyewitness descriptions of symptoms seen in the Cocoliztli Epidemic (Cocoliztli = "disease" in Nahuatl, the indigenous Aztec language).


Symptoms are described as high fever with black tongue, dizziness, dysentery, chest pain and severe bleeding from the nose, eyes and mouth. The origin of the epidemic is therefore largely unproven.


 

7. The Aztec Smallpox Pandemic

About 7 million deaths

Description of Spanish colonists treating sick Aztecs during the Smallpox Pandemic
Description of Spanish colonists treating sick Aztecs during the Smallpox Pandemic

Time: 1520 (with successive smaller outbreaks until 1951 throughout Latin America)

Areas Affected: Aztec Empire (present-day Mexico)


Disease: Smallpox

Caused by: Major Variola Virus & Minor Variola Virus

Transmitted: A person becomes infected with the virus through direct contact with body fluids containing the virus.


Origin: Spanish colonists (“Conquistadores”) led by Hernan Cortes invaded the Aztec Empire in 1519 and in the process inadvertently spread smallpox among the indigenous population. Unlike the Europeans, the native Aztecs had never previously dealt with smallpox and therefore did not create any vaccinations against the virus. Beginning in May 1520 and lasting until the end of that year, the virus quickly spread throughout the Aztec land, even killing a number of notable Aztec chieftains including Cuitlahuac, ruler of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan. Mexico City today).


Even after the Aztec pandemic, the virus would then continue to spread throughout the Americas, killing millions of Native Americans until 1951, when the virus was finally eradicated.


 

8. Antonine plague

Around 5 million deaths (some estimates go as high as 8 million)

Description of Rome in the Antonine Plague
Description of Rome in the Antonine Plague

Time: 165-180

Affected areas: Roman Empire (especially Rome itself, where 1/3 of the population perished)


Disease: unspecified (possibly measles or smallpox)

Cause of infection: unknown


Origin: The origin of the epidemic and the disease is largely unknown. Based on the symptoms described by the infected, the outbreak was most likely caused by an outbreak of measles or smallpox, which Roman soldiers, merchants, or diplomats may have brought to Europe from China. , where smallpox in particular was relatively common. In Europe, neither of these viruses was known at the time, and Europeans therefore had not yet formed immunity against both diseases. When the plague reached Rome, the most populous city in the world at the time, it killed a third of the city's entire population.


The plague lasted for 15 years and spread to most parts of the Roman Empire. The plague (falsely called the Plague) was named after Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor at that time, whose full name was Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (given by his adoptive father and predecessor Roman emperor Antoninus Pius) ). Aurelius's adopted brother and co-emperor, Lucius Verus, was likely among those infected and died in 169 when a pandemic broke out in Rome.


 

9. Asian Flu

About 3 million deaths (some estimates as high as 4 million)

Children infected with Asian flu in the clinic in Troy, New York, USA
Children infected with Asian flu in the clinic in Troy, New York, USA

Time: 1956 - 1958

Affected regions: China, Hong Kong, Singapore, to a lesser extent also the United States and Europe


Illness: Influenza (also known as Influenza)

Caused by: Influenza A H2N2

Viral transmission: An infected person spreads the virus to others by coughing and sneezing.


Origin: The virus originated in China, where it may have transferred and mutated to humans from ducks. The virus quickly spread to neighboring Hong Kong and reached Singapore by sea. The virus has also reached Europe and the United States, where it has claimed the lives of about 70,000 people. The epidemic was brought under control and eventually ended completely thanks to the development of an effective vaccine in 1957.


 

10. The Persian Plague

About 2 million people died

Time: 1772 - 1773


Areas Affected: Persian Empire (present-day Iran, Iraq, Bahrain), to a lesser extent as well as present-day Pakistan and India


Disease: Plague

Caused by: Yersinia pestis bacteria

Transmission: Oriental rat fleas carry bacteria, which infect humans through the bite of a flea.


Origin: The plague began in Bagdhad in the winter of 1772. Infested rats then rapidly spread throughout the Persian Empire and especially along the coast of the Persian Gulf, eventually reaching Bahrain. In the East, bacteria reached as far as present-day Mumbai, India. The epidemic did not last long, but was extremely severe with thousands of deaths recorded every day at the height of the outbreak. Only the application of quarantine measures in Persia could contain the epidemic as late as 1773.


Top 10 deadliest diseases in history

(as of March 2020)


The 10 scariest epidemics in history:

1. Black Death Plague

~ 140 million deaths

2. Spanish Flu

~ 50 million deaths

3. AIDS pandemic

~ 36 million deaths

4. Plague of the JUSTINIAN

~30 million dead

5. the third plague

~ 22 million deaths

6. COCOLIZTLI epidemic

~ 10 million deaths

7. Smallpox pandemic

~ 7 million deaths

8. ANTONINE epidemic

~5 million deaths

9. ASIAN FLU

~3 million deaths

10. Persian plague

~2 million dead



 

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