With covid-19 taking over the world, it only makes sense that we’d take some of that abundant lockdown time to take a stroll through medical history and look at some of the other deadly epidemics and pandemics that have plagued our history.
We’ll take a look at some minor epidemics from recent history and the biggest ones that we’ve ever had when going a bit further back in time. If nothing else, this’ll prove that covid-19 isn’t that bad – at least not yet.
The Plague of Justinian
This plague was our first registered encounter with the Bubonic Plague, and it wiped out nearly half the population of Europe. At the time (from 541 to 542 A.D.) this meant that we saw about 25 million casualties. This, sadly, is almost nothing compared to our biggest run-in with the Bubonic Plague, which we’ll see later.
The Flu Pandemic
This 1918 epidemic that was caused by an influenza strain that caused the deaths of an appoximated 20 to 50 million people. This was one of the first influenza pandemics that also killed healthy young adults, apart from the elderly or the juvenile. The mortality rate of this pandemic was a whopping 10 to 20%!
The Black Plague
Probably the most known pandemic in our history books, this strain of the Bubonic plague took the lives of 75 million to 200 million people in the mid-1300s. We’re still not quite sure how it happened, but it’s assumed that the strain hopped on some fleas living on rats that were all over the merchant ships in those days. Europe, Asia and Africa were utterly devastated in the wake of this pandemic.
So far, the HIV/Aids pandemic has cost the lives of more than 36 milllion people worldwide. The first infection of HIV goes back to 1981 and while we can currently give the infected people medication to keep their quality of life high, there’s no cure for this disease and it’ll probably take millions of lives before we can cure it.
The Asian Flu
This flu strain called H2N2 led to the deaths of approximately 2 million people in Asia and in the US. Considering how it only lasted from 1956 until 1958, that’s a hefty death toll for such a short period. Despite it being named the Asian flu for originating in the Hong Kong area, it caused the deaths of almost 70,000 people in the US as well.
The Sixth Cholera Pandemic
Like all the ones before it, this Cholera pandemic started out in India. It slowly took over parts of Southeast Asia and the MIddle East, slowly spreading across the planet, and took the lives of over 800,000 people. After this outbreak, which took place in 1910, the Americans reacted so swiftly that they only suffered 11 casualties from it and it was the last time that a Cholera outbreak took place on American soil.
The Antonine Plague
More commonly known as the Plague of Galen, the true cause of this plague is sadly unknown. It’s assumed that this 165 A.D. plague, that cost the lives of 5 million people at the time, was caused by either Smallpox or Measles. This plague entered Europe through Roman soldiers, returning home from battle in Mesopotamia. The casualties had quite an impact on the Roman army and utterly decimated their ranks.