10 Of The Most Destructive Pandemics In Human History
Our world is ridden with deadly diseases, and human history can certainly confirm this.
There have been numerous time periods our survival has been threatened by invisible killers much worse than the current coronavirus.
And while we are normally frightened by modern time pests such as HIV or influenza, many terrifying health crises have been known to ravage our world over time. The illnesses that almost exterminated the human race are a thing of the past, but we must be extremely careful: only God knows what will come at us in the future.
Here are some of the worst silent killers in human history.
1. Antonine Plague
Also referred to as the Plague of Galen, the Antonine Plague was a plague that ravaged Greece, Egypt, Italy, and Asia Minor and is believed to have been related to either Measles or Smallpox, even though its real origin is still no known. This mysterious disease had infected soldiers returning from Mesopotamia circa 165D to Rome; without being aware of it, they had spread the disease which would eventually cause the deaths of more than 5 million people and proved to be a critical blow to the Roman army.
Malaria, which is caused by a parasite living inside mosquitos, affects around 200 million people every year. It is one of the most lethal pandemics due to its resistance to medicines. It is mainly spread through mosquitoes and mostly impacts developing countries.
According to documented descriptions, Malaria first appeared around 2700 BCE, although, until the late 1800s, humans did not understand its causes or how it was spread. It is speculated that Malaria may even have been one of the reasons for the fall of Genghis Khan and the Roman Empire.
3. Asian Flu
The Asian Flu was of the Influenza A H2N2 subtype that came out of China in 1956 and lasted for about two years. At the time, this pandemic ravaged China, Singapore, Hong Kong, and even the U.S. The death toll caused by the Asian Flu is estimated to be around 2 million people, with close to 70,000 in the U.S. alone.
Smallpox is a strongly contagious disease triggered by the variola virus. It first spread to America in the 17th century. It was unintentionally brought there by Europeans and caused the deaths of millions of natives. It is believed that smallpox has also taken the lives of many people within the Roman Empire, in the Middle Ages, and within the Incan and Aztec civilizations.
It is believed to originate from Egypt and India, and the earliest traces of it were found in the mummy of Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses V. He passed away in 1145 BCE and his mummified body shows signs of smallpox. Even though scientists have been able to pinpoint this, they are still unsure of the true origins of smallpox or why it spread with the speed it did.
5. The Spanish Flu (1918)
An unspeakable outbreak of influenza struck the world between 1918 and 1920 infecting more than a third of the people around the globe and killing at least 50 million(possibly as high as 100 million) Of the 500 million infected 25 million people died in just the first 25 weeks of the pandemic. What made the Spanish Flu different from the rest was the staggering number of people who died, in comparison to other influenza outbreaks which mostly killed the weak and elderly. This flu discriminated neither on age nor agility.
6. The Sixth Cholera Pandemic
The Sixth Cholera Pandemic came from India where it took the lives of more than 800,00 people, before taking on North Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Russia. It was also the source of the 1910 Cholera outbreak in America. Having accumulated knowledge from the past, health experts acted swiftly and isolated the infected, which resulted in only 11 deaths in the U.S. By 1923, cases had been dramatically reduced, even though it still ravaged through India.
7. The Moscow Plague
The Moscow Plague was a bubonic plague that took the lives of 50,000 to 100,000 people between 1770 to 1772. While the total death toll is unknown, this plague killed close to a third of Moscow’s population at the time. Before it was brought under control, there were strong shortages of food and intense riots.
After its surfacing in Russia, the bubonic plague strangely disappeared from Europe in the 18th century.
8. The 2014 Ebola Pandemic
The first Ebola outbreak happened in 2014 and proved to be disastrous to the people of Africa. It is considered the worst Ebola outbreak in history and is in fact the first Ebola pandemic.
Back in March 2016, the Public Health Emergency of International Concern was terminated due to the Ebola threat. Unfortunately, it had already taken the lives of 11,310 people, with 28,616 confirmed cases in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea.
9. Plague of Justinian (541-542 AD, with recurrence to 750AD)
Even though it took the lives of half of Europe’s population at the time, the Plague of Justinian was a bubonic plague pandemic that first struck the Byzantine Empire and Mediterranean port cities, causing the deaths of around 25 million people in its one-year killing spree, and up to 100 million in the upcoming centuries until 750AD. The Justinian Plague was the first known bubonic plague and made history by taking the lives of up to a quarter of the Eastern Mediterranean and ravaged the great city of Constantinople, where it took the lives of around 5,000 people each day. Eventually, it killed 40% of its entire population.
10. The Black Death
Europe, Asia, and Africa fell victim to a horrific plague between 1346 and 1353, with an estimate of 75 and 200 million deaths. Even though, it originated in Asia, this Plague likely ran through continents carried by fleas living in rats that lived on board of merchant ships. Bein great urban centers at the time, ports were the perfect environment for rats, fleas, and eventually the devastating Black Death.
What are your thoughts on history’s worst plagues compared to the current coronavirus crisis? Let us know by joining the conversation in the comments and please share this article if you’ve found it informative.