How the Black Death Started in Asia

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How the Black Death Started in Asia
The Black Death, a medieval pandemic that was likely the bubonic plague, is generally associated with Europe. This is not surprising since it killed an estimated one-third of the European population in the 14th century. However, the Bubonic Plague actually started in Asia and devastated many areas of that continent as well.


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The Black Death

The Black Death

This is a medieval pandemic (most likely, the bubonic plague) and is associated with Europe because it killed an estimated one-third of the European population in the 14th century.
However, the ...


Origins of the Black Death

Many scholars believe that the bubonic plague began in northwestern China, while others cite southwestern China or the steppes of Central Asia.
We do know that in 1331 an outbreak erupted in the...


The Black Death Spreads

From its origin at the eastern end of the Silk Road, the Black Death rode trade routes west stopping at Central Asian caravansaries and Middle Eastern trade centers and subsequently infected people...


More Recent Asian Plague Outbreaks

  • In 1855, the so-called "Third Pandemic" of bubonic plague broke out in Yunnan Province, China.
  • Another outbreak happened in China in 1910. It went on to kill more than 10 million, m...


Legacy of the Plague in Asia

Legacy of the Plague in Asia

The Black Death contributed to the fall of the mighty Mongol Empire.
The massive population loss and terror caused by the plague destabilized Mongolian governments from the Golden Horde in Russi...



Spreading of diseases

Transmissible diseases existed during humankind’s hunter-gatherer days, but the shift to agrarian life 10,000 years ago created communities that made epidemics more possible.
We started build...

430 B.C.: Plague of Athens

The earliest recorded pandemic happened during the Peloponnesian War. It passed through Libya, Ethiopia, and Egypt,  and it reached Athens as the Spartans laid siege. Two-thirds of the population died.
The disease, suspected to have been typhoid fever, weakened the Athenians significantly and played a big role in their defeat by the Spartans.

165 A.D.: The Antonine Plague

It may have been an early appearance of smallpox that began with the Huns.
The Huns then infected the Germans, who passed it to the Romans and then returning troops spread it throughout the Roman empire.  This plague continued until about 180 A.D., claiming Emperor Marcus Aurelius as one of its victims.

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We remain vulnerable

We remain vulnerable

For all our advances in medicine, we remain more vulnerable to pandemics than we would like to believe.

To understand our vulnerability and to establish what steps we need to take to end ...

The Black Death

In 1347, the Black Death came to Europe, first brought by the Mongol army, then spreading through Europe.

In six years, tens of millions fell gravely ill. Nearly half of all Europeans succumb to the Black Death, one-third of Egyptians and Syrians were killed, and it also laid waste to parts of central Asia, India, and China.

Disasters that scarred humanity

  • In AD 541, the plague of Justinian struck the Byzantine empire, killing roughly 3% of the world's population.
  • When Europeans reached the Americas in 1492, the two populations exposed each other to completely novel diseases such as measles, influenza, and smallpox.
  • Centuries later, the interconnected world made a global pandemic possible. The Spanish flu of 1918 spread to six continents where between 3% and 6% were killed.

However, even the Spanish flu pandemic had a minimal apparent effect on the world's development. It was less significant than the first world war, which had a smaller death toll but a more substantial impact on the course of history.

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Epidemic vs. pandemic

An epidemic is a broad term used to describe any problem that is actively spreading and has grown out of control.

The pandemic rel...

Disease Event Classification

Epidemiology is the branch of medicine that handles the following:

  • Incidence: the occurrence of a disease over a specified period.
  • Prevalence: how many people are affected within a population.
  • Control of diseases: an appropriate public health response.

Two measurable factors mostly define the level of disease occurrence:

  • The pattern and speed by which a disease moves.
  • The size of the susceptible population.

The terms an epidemiologist use

  • Sporadic refers to a disease that occurs infrequently or irregularly.
  • Cluster refers to a disease that occurs in larger numbers even though the actual number or cause may be uncertain.
  • Endemic refers to the constant presence and/or general prevalence of a disease in a geographic population.
  • Hyperendemic refers to persistent, high levels of disease well above what is seen in other populations.
  • Epidemic refers to a sudden increase in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected.
  • Outbreak is the same as an epidemic but is often used to describe a more limited geographic event.
  • Pandemic refers to an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people.

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