It first appeared in Egypt, then spread to Palestine and the Byzantine Empire, and then throughout the Mediterranean. The plague changed the course of the empire, forcefully changing Emperor Justinian's plans to bring the Roman Empire back together causing a massive economic struggle and creating an apocalyptic atmosphere that encouraged the rapid spread of Christianity. Recurrences over the next two centuries eventually killed about 50 million people, 26 percent of the world population.
In an age of advanced medical technology and innovation, we can hardly imagine a time where the flu could be deadly. There are definitely still epidemics in our time, like for example the recent Ebola outbreak. However, the epidemics in the past involved far greater numbers of people.
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.
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 Yuan Empire and may have hastened the end of Mongol rule over China. Three years later, the disease killed over 90 percent of the Hebei Province's population with deaths totaling over 5 million people.
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 all across Asia.
Epidemic is a term that is often broadly used to describe any problem that has grown out of control. An epidemic is defined as "an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population." An epidemic is an event in which a disease is actively spreading.