Pandemic: The worst case scenario for infectious diseases is when an epidemic occurs. Currently, the new coronavirus has been declared a global pandemic. Such infectious diseases has a long history. In ancient times, when humans depended on prey for survival, infectious diseases existed. The idea of forming groups or communities is more prevalent when people are thriving in agrarian economy than 10,000 years ago. And from that time onwards the infectious disease started to become epidemic. Various diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, leprosy, influenza, gutisanta have taken pandemic at different times. As human civilization has improved, the prevalence of epidemics has increased. Because cities, villages have slowly built up, population density has increased. In addition, communication and trade between different regions has increased. As a result, the risk of spread of disease is also created.
Let us know the story of 10 horrific epidemics that kills billions of lives and changed the history.
No: 1. 430 AD: Athens
During the Peloponnesian War, about 430 BC, a pestilence spread. In present-day Libya, Ethiopia, and Egypt, it spread to Athens, the capital of Greece. The disease causes about two-thirds of the total population of the region. The main symptoms of the disease were fever, severe itching, throat and tongue bleeding, skin reddening and wounds. Supposedly, it was typhoid fever. It is said that the Athenians lost the battle to the Spartans because of such an epidemic.
No: 2. 541 AD: Justinian plague
The disease first spread to Egypt in the form of epidemics. The epidemic spread from there to Palestine and the Byzantine Empire. Later this plague raged throughout the Mediterranean. Emperor Justinian was planning to unite the Byzantines with the Roman Empire at that time. The epidemic is all but over. The economic crisis began. The disease took pandemic at different times over the next two centuries. About five million people died. As of then, it was 26 percent of the world’s total population. The main carriers of this plague were rats. The disease is spread mainly from one region to another through human movement.
No: 3. Eleventh Century: Leprosy
Leprosy was already in existence. But in the Middle Ages, the disease was pandemic in Europe. Leprosy is a bacterial disease. Until the discovery of antibiotics, leprosy was a deadly disease. Even now, millions of people suffer from leprosy every year. But the use of antibiotics can no longer kill people with this disease.
No: 4.The Black Death: 1350s
The epidemic killed about one-third of the world’s population at that time. This is called a bubonic plague. A certain bacterium is responsible for the disease. The epidemic, known as The Black Death, first spread to Asia. Later it spreads to the west. At one time the whole of Europe was affected by the epidemic. The casualties in the affected area increased so much that the bodies of the people were lying on the road. These bodies are in crisis, causing another crisis. Only at that time did England and France stop the war because of this epidemic. The British feudal system had collapsed due to huge changes in the demographics and demographics of the plague.
No: 5. The Great Plague of London: 1665
It was also the bubonic plague. It killed 20 per cent of London’s total population. Dogs and cats were initially thought of as a source of disease. In the horror of the disease, the city dog and cat were killed indiscriminately. The plague spread to the London port area.
No: 6. First Cholera Epidemic: 1817
The first epidemic of cholera in Russia began. About one million people died there. The disease spreads to British troops through contaminated water. It later spread to India, killing more than 1 million people. Cholera is also pandemic in British colonies. Cholera is also spread in Spain, Africa, Indonesia, China, Japan, Italy, Germany and the United States. About 1.5 million people die in these areas. As a result, 22-23 million people died. Not only this, cholera has appeared in several cases at different times over the next one and a half years.
No: 7. Third plague epidemic: 1855
It originated from China. Later it spread to India and Hong Kong. About one and a half million people were affected by the epidemic. The epidemic took the most deadly form in India. Historians say the British rulers took oppressive measures in India and put an end to the insurgency.
No: 8. Russian Flu: 1889
It was the first epidemic caused by the flu. It originated in Siberia and Kazakhstan. Later it spread to Finland and Poland through Moscow. At one time, epidemics also occurred in Europe. The flu was spread across North America and Africa as well. By the end of 1890, about 360,000 thousand people died from the disease.
NO: 9. Spanish Flu: 1918
The epidemic kills about five million people worldwide. It is believed that the origin of the Spanish flu was in China. Through Chinese workers, it spread through Canada to Europe. The flu occurred in North America in early 1918 and later spread to Europe. After the epidemic spread in Madrid, Spain, it was called ‘Spanish flu’. In the summer of 1919 the incidence of the disease declined. The Spanish flu was extremely lethal as sulfa drugs and penicillin were not yet discovered. A total of 80,000,000 people in Spain were infected with the flu. The worldwide number of victims was 50 million.
No: 10. Asian Flu: 1957
The disease spread from Hong Kong to China. Within six months it spread widely through the United States to the United Kingdom. This causes about 14,000 deaths. In the beginning of 1958, the Asian flu spread for the second time in a pandemic. About 11,000,000 people worldwide died of Asian flu during that time. 116,000 people died in the United States alone. The vaccine could later prevent the epidemic.
Also in 1981, AIDS was identified for the first time. The HIV virus destroys the immune system in the human body. Experts believe that the virus originated in West Africa around 1920. AIDS has so far killed more than 350 million people worldwide since the disease was diagnosed.
Disease and History, Frederick C. Cartwright, 2014
Disease: The Story of Disease and Mankind’s Continuing Struggle Against It, Mary Dobson, 2007
Encyclopedia of Pastelins, Pandemics and Plagues, ed. Joseph P. Byrne, 2008
Influenza, The American Experience
Source Book of Medical History, Logan Clendening, 1960