A History Of Pandemics
  • A Pandemic is defined as the proliferation of a disease over the whole country or the entire world.
  • Diseases and illnesses have troubled humanity since the earliest days, but can now occur with increased frequency due to rapid urbanization and globalism. The death toll numbers in Pandemics over the ages are estimates based on available research, and may not be accurate.
  • Earlier it was believed that Pandemics are God’s punishment on humans, but now, as our understanding has increased, the response to these outbreaks has improved.

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  • The original use of the word Quarantine was the act of anchoring a ship arrived in Venice, Italy, for 40 days before landing.
  • Infectiousness of any disease is measured by the reproduction number (R0, or R naught). For example, Smallpox has an R0 of 6 whereas Measles has an R0 of 16. 
  • Vaccination, if available, and herd immunity can curb the spread of disease.
  • Big cities, with exploding population and traffic, can lead to the rapid spread of any infectious disease.

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1889: Russian Flu

The first significant flu pandemic started in Siberia and Kazakhstan, traveled to Moscow, and made its way into Finland and then Poland, where it moved into the rest of Europe. By the following year, it had crossed the ocean into North America and Africa. By the end of 1890, 360,000 had died.

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The Third Plague Pandemic (1855)

This bubonic plague pandemic started in the Yunnan province in China. Over the next 20 years, rats carried the infectious fleas responsible for the disease to Hong Kong and port cities around the world.

It caused almost 10 million deaths.

Therapies of the day

No specific anti-viral therapies were available during the 1918 flu. That’s still largely true today, where most medical care for the flu aims to support patients, rather than cure them.

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