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Worst Pandemics in The History

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ANTONINE PLAGUE (165 to 180 AD)

Affected mostly the Asia Minor, Egypt, Greece, and Italy, Antonine Plague is thought to have been either Smallpox or Measles, and the true cause is still unknown. It was believed that returning soldiers to Rome from Mesopotamia around 165AD unknowingly carried and had spread a disease that ended up killing over 5 million people and decimating the Roman army. The disease was also known as the Plague of Galen.

Death Toll: 5 million

Cause: Unknown

PLAGUE OF JUSTINIAN (541-542 AD)

The contagious disease was caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis and thought to have killed almost half the Europe’s population and the same cause of the Black Death. The Plague of Justinian or Justinianic Plague was a bubonic plague outbreak that caused the lives of about 25 million people from the Byzantine Empire and Mediterranean port cities.

It was regarded as the first recorded incident of the Bubonic Plague, which at its height killed an estimated 5,000 people per day.

Death Toll: 25 million

Cause: Bubonic Plague

THE BLACK DEATH (1346-1353)

Perhaps, one of the most devastating outbreaks in the history that claimed 75 to 200 million people. It was believed to have originated in Asia and have travelled to other continents via the fleas on the rats that so frequently lived aboard merchant ships. Ports being major urban centers at the time, became the breeding ground for the rats and fleas, and thus the insidious bacterium flourished, devastating three continents in its wake.

Death Toll: 75 – 200 million

Cause: Bubonic Plague

THIRD CHOLERA PANDEMIC (1852–1860)

There were seven cholera pandemics, but the third is considered the deadliest. It happened in the 19th century from 1852 to 1860. It also originated in India, just like the first and the second cholera pandemic. It spread from the Ganges River Delta transferring to Asia, Europe, North America, and Africa and claimed over 1 million people’s lives. According to a British physician John Snow, contaminated water was the primary source and 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.

Death Toll: 1 million

Cause: Cholera

FLU PANDEMIC (1889-1890)

It has a few names like “Asiatic Flu” and “Russian Flu”. This strain was thought to be an Influenza A virus subtype H2N2 outbreak, but recent discoveries found that Influenza A virus subtype H3N8 was the cause. The first cases happened in three separate and distant locations, Bukhara in Central Asia (Turkestan), Athabasca in northwestern Canada, and Greenland in May 1889. It grew rapidly in the 19th century, specifically in urban areas. It was regarded as the first true epidemic in the era of bacteriology that killed over a million individuals.

Death Toll: 1 million

Cause: Influenza

SIXTH CHOLERA PANDEMIC (1910-1911)

Like the first five cholera pandemics, the Sixth Cholera Pandemic originated in India where it ended over 800,000. It spread to the Middle East, North Africa, Eastern Europe and Russia. It was also the source of the last American outbreak of Cholera in 1910–1911. Fortunately, the American health authorities, learned from the past, quickly sought to isolate the infected. In the end, only 11 deaths occurred in the U.S. By 1923 Cholera cases had been cut down dramatically, although it was still a constant in India.

Death Toll: 800,000+

Cause: Cholera

FLU PANDEMIC (1918)

With mortality rate at 10% to 20%, this pandemic that was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin claimed the lives of 20 – 50 million people and infecting over a third of the world’s population. It was also called a Spanish flu although the exact origin was unidentified. In Spring of 1918 in the U.S., it was first identified in military personnel.

This had begun striking down fit and healthy young adults and caused physical illness to children and those with weaker immune systems.

Death Toll: 20 -50 million

Cause: Influenza

ASIAN FLU (1956-1958)

Originated in China, this pandemic was caused by an Influenza A of the H2N2 subtype. It began appearing in 1956 and lasted until 1958. It quickly spread from Asian countries in only two years, originating from the province of Guizhou to Singapore, Hong Kong, and the United States. According to the World Health Organization, it claimed approximately 2 million deaths, with 69,800 of those in the U.S. alone.

Death Toll: 2 million

Cause: Influenza

FLU PANDEMIC (1968)

Also referred to as “the Hong Kong Flu,” this category 2 flu pandemic was caused by the H3N2 strain of the Influenza A virus, a genetic offshoot of the H2N2 subtype. After the first reported case in Hong Kong on July 13, 1968, it took 17 days before Singapore and Vietnam experience an outbreak. Within three months, it had spread to The Philippines, India, Australia, Europe, and the United States. Although, this pandemic had a comparatively low mortality rate (.5%) it still resulted in the deaths of more than a million people, including 500,000 residents of Hong Kong, approximately 15% of its population.

Death Toll: 1 million

Cause: Influenza