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Pandemics That Changed History: Timeline

1350: The Black Death

1350: The Black Death

Responsible for the death of one-third of the world population, this second large outbreak of the bubonic plague possibly started in Asia and moved west in caravans.
Entering through Sicily in 1347 A.D. when plague sufferers arrived in the port of Messina, it spread throughout Europe rapidly. Dead bodies became so prevalent that many remained rotting on the ground and created a constant stench in cities.

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Pandemics That Changed History: Timeline

Pandemics That Changed History: Timeline

https://www.history.com/topics/middle-ages/pandemics-timeline

history.com

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Key Ideas

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 building cities and forging trade routes to connect with other cities, declaring wars with them; all these made more likely the existence of pandemics.

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.

250 A.D.: Cyprian Plague

It is named after the first known victim, the Christian bishop of Carthage.
Possibly starting in Ethiopia, it passed through Northern Africa, into Rome, then onto Egypt and northward. City dwellers fled to the country to escape infection but instead spread the disease further.
Symptoms: diarrhea, vomiting, throat ulcers, fever and gangrenous hands and feet.

541 A.D.: The Justinian Plague

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.

11th Century: Leprosy

Though it had been around for ages, leprosy grew into a pandemic in Europe in the Middle Ages.
A slow-developing bacterial disease that causes sores and deformities, leprosy was believed to be a punishment from God that ran in families. This belief led to moral judgments and ostracization of victims. Now known as Hansen’s disease, it still afflicts tens of thousands of people a year and can be fatal if not treated with antibiotics.

1350: The Black Death

Responsible for the death of one-third of the world population, this second large outbreak of the bubonic plague possibly started in Asia and moved west in caravans.
Entering through Sicily in 1347 A.D. when plague sufferers arrived in the port of Messina, it spread throughout Europe rapidly. Dead bodies became so prevalent that many remained rotting on the ground and created a constant stench in cities.

1492: The Columbian Exchange

Following the arrival of the Spanish in the Caribbean, diseases such as smallpox, measles and bubonic plague were passed along to the native populations by the Europeans. With no previous exposure, these diseases devastated indigenous people, with as many as 90 percent dying throughout the north and south continents.

1665: The Great Plague of London

The bubonic plague led to the deaths of 20 percent of London’s population. As human death tolls mounted and mass graves appeared, hundreds of thousands of cats and dogs were slaughtered as the possible cause and the disease spread through ports along the Thames.

1817: First Cholera Pandemic

This wave of the small intestine infection originated in Russia, where one million people died. Spreading through feces-infected water and food, the bacterium was passed along to British soldiers who brought it to India where millions more died. The reach of the British Empire and its navy spread cholera to Spain, Africa, Indonesia, China, Japan, Italy, Germany and America, where it killed 150,000 people. A vaccine was created in 1885, but pandemics continued.

1855: The Third Plague Pandemic

Starting in China and moving to India and Hong Kong, the bubonic plague claimed 15 million victims. Initially spread by fleas during a mining boom in Yunnan, the plague is considered a factor in the Parthay rebellion and the Taiping rebellion. India faced the most substantial casualties, and the epidemic was used as an excuse for repressive policies that sparked some revolt against the British. The pandemic was considered active until 1960 when cases dropped below a couple hundred.

1875: Fiji Measles Pandemic

After Fiji ceded to the British Empire, a royal party visited Australia as a gift from Queen Victoria. Arriving during a measles outbreak, the royal party brought the disease back to their island, and it was spread further by the tribal heads and police who met with them upon their return.
Spreading quickly, the island was littered with corpses that were scavenged by wild animals, and entire villages died and were burned down, sometimes with the sick trapped inside the fires. One-third of Fiji’s population, a total of 40,000 people, died.

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.

1918: Spanish Flu

The avian-borne flu that resulted in 50 million deaths worldwide, the Spanish flu is theorized to have originated in China and been spread by Chinese laborers being transported by rail across Canada on their way to Europe. In North America, the flu first appeared in Kansas in early 1918 and was visible in Europe by spring. Wire service reports of a flu outbreak in Madrid in the spring of 1918 led to the pandemic being called the “Spanish flu.”
By October, hundreds of thousands of Americans died and body storage scarcity hit crisis level. But the flu threat disappeared in the summer of 1919 when most of the infected had either developed immunities or died.

1957: Asian flu

Starting in Hong Kong and spreading throughout China and then into the United States, the Asian flu became widespread in England where, over six months, 14,000 people died. A second wave followed in early 1958, causing an estimated total of about 1.1 million deaths globally, with 116,000 deaths in the United States alone. A vaccine was developed, effectively containing the pandemic.

1981: HIV/AIDS

AIDS was first observed in American gay communities but is believed to have developed from a chimpanzee virus from West Africa in the 1920s. The disease, which spreads through certain body fluids, moved to Haiti in the 1960s, and then New York and San Francisco in the 1970s.
First identified in 1981, AIDS destroys a person’s immune system, resulting in eventual death by diseases that the body would usually fight off. Those infected by the HIV virus encounter fever, headache, and enlarged lymph nodes upon infection. When symptoms subside, carriers become highly infectious through blood and genital fluid, and the disease destroys t-cells.
Treatments have been developed to slow the progress of the disease, but 35 million people worldwide have died of AIDS since its discovery, and a cure is yet to be found.

The 2003 Crisis

First identified in 2003 after several months of cases, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome infected infecting 8,096 people, with 774 deaths (from 26 countries)
It is characterized by respiratory problems, dry cough, fever and head and body aches and is spread through respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezes.

Quarantine efforts proved effective and by July, the virus was contained and hasn’t reappeared since.

The 2019 Pandemic

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization announced that a new virus was officially a pandemic after barreling through 114 countries in three months and infecting over 118,000 people. And the spread wasn’t anywhere near finished.

The new virus spreads through droplets from sneezes.
The very first case in China appeared on November 17, 2019. There is still no vaccine available.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

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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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 ...
Quarantined
  • 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.
The Third Cholera Pandemic (1852-1860)
The Third Cholera Pandemic (1852-1860)

Cholera is a bacterial infection and is mainly contracted through food and water.

The largest cholera outbreak originated in India and spread beyond its borders, killing about 23 000 people ...

The Asian Flu Pandemic (1957)

The Asian Flu Pandemic was an outbreak of avian influenza that started in China and spread worldwide.

The estimated death rate was one to two million people.

Typhus fever in World War 1 (1945)

Typhus fever is spread by lice. The war brought on poor sanitation that probably led to a higher density of lice and made the transmission more prevalent.

Typhus fever caused three million deaths in Russia alone.

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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 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.

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 all across Asia.

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The influenza pandemic of 1918

It is often referred to incorrectly as the “Spanish flu.” Between 50 and 100 million people are thought to have died, representing as much as 5% of the world’s population. Half a billion people...

The origins of the "Spanish" flu

The so-called Spanish flu did not originate in Spain. The geographic origin of the flu is debated to this day, though hypotheses have suggested East Asia, Europe, and even Kansas.
The influenza pandemic from 1918 got this name most likely because of the WWI context: The major countries involved in the war were keen to avoid encouraging their enemies, so reports of the extent of the flu were suppressed in Germany, Austria, France, the United Kingdom and the U.S. By contrast, neutral Spain had no need to keep the flu under wraps. That created the false impression that Spain was bearing the brunt of the disease.

The end of mankind

The 1918 flu spread rapidly, killing 25 million people in just the first six months. This led some to fear the end of mankind and that the whole thing was caused by a form of super-virus.
Recent studies show that the high death rate can be attributed to crowding in military camps and urban environments, as well as poor nutrition and sanitation, which suffered during wartime.

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Insight from literature

Over the history of Western literature about pandemics, much has been said in the way of catharsis, ways of dealing with intense emotion, and political commentary on how people respond to public he...

Stories help us to think

Homer's Iliad opens with a plague visited upon the Greek camp at Troy. The Decameron (1353) by Giovanni Boccaccio is set during the Black Death.

The stories offer the listeners ways to consider how similar crises have been managed previously, and how to reorganize their daily lives, which have been suspended due to the epidemic.

Authority's failure to respond
  • Mary Shelley's apocalypse novel The Last Man (1826), depicts the life of Lionel Verney, who becomes the last man after a devastating global plague. The book criticizes the institutional responses to the plague, showing the revolutionary utopianism and the in-fighting that breaks out among surviving groups before they also die.
  • The short story, The Masque of the Red Death (1842), also shows the failures o authority figures to respond to a disaster appropriately.

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2009: The H1N1pdm09 virus

In the spring of 2009, a novel influenza A (H1N1) virus emerged. It was detected first in the United States and spread quickly across the United States and the world. 

This new H1N1 viru...

The 2009 H1N1 outbreak in numbers

From April 12, 2009 to April 10, 2010, CDC estimated there were 60.8 million cases (range: 43.3-89.3 million), 274,304 hospitalizations (range: 195,086-402,719), and 12,469 deaths (range: 8868-18,306) in the United States due to the (H1N1)pdm09 virus.
Additionally, CDC estimated that 151,700-575,400 people worldwide died from (H1N1)pdm09 virus infection during the first year the virus circulated.

The 2009 H1N1 Pandemic

Though the 2009 flu pandemic primarily affected children and young and middle-aged adults, the impact of the (H1N1)pdm09 virus on the global population during the first year was less severe than that of previous pandemics.
The (H1N1)pdm09 virus was very different from H1N1 viruses that were circulating at the time of the pandemic. Few young people had any existing immunity (as detected by antibody response) to the (H1N1)pdm09 virus, but nearly one-third of people over 60 years old had antibodies against this virus, likely from exposure to an older H1N1 virus earlier in their lives.

The habit of shaking hands

Taking into account the current situation created by the new virus, disease experts state that we should all consider removing handshakes from our habits from now on, as they could only increase th...

Giving up on handshakes

While shaking hands reveals the need to connect with the other and be socially engaged, several disease experts are encouraging us to find a substitute that would endanger less our health throughout periods of pandemics and not only. For instance, greetings such as simply stating how much of a pleasure it is to meet a person could actually do the trick.

Adapting our social habits

While disease experts support the idea of removing the handshakes from our cultural customs, several University professors claim that individuals are surely able to adept their customs, even if these have been practiced for generations to come. Therefore, giving up or just adjusting the handshake, should be no major issue for our civilization.

The pandemic

According to the World Health Organization, a pandemic is declared when a new disease for which people do not have immunity spreads around the world beyond expectations.

Declaring a pandemic

When declaring a pandemic, the World Health Organization has the last word. There is no threshold, such as a certain number of deaths or infections, or a number of countries affected, that needs to be met.
And once a pandemic is declared, it becomes more likely that community spread will eventually happen, and governments and health systems need to ensure they are prepared for that.

Dealing with the current pandemic

Although a pandemic has been declared, there is no need for global panic. Panic would defeat the purpose of trying to raise awareness.
It is still urging countries to detect, test, treat, isolate, trace and mobilize their people.

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The mask

The mask - a flimsy polymer cup - fits tightly around the face and is capable of filtering 95% of airborne particles, such as viruses, from the air.

The firsts masks were ...

Surgical masks

Doctors started wearing the first surgical masks in 1897. The masks were not designed to prevent airborne disease - that is still not the case today - but to prevent doctors from coughing or sneezing droplets onto wounds during surgery.

The first modern respirator

During 1920, a plague broke out between a shared jurisdiction of China and Russia. The Chinese Imperial Court brought in a young doctor named Lien-teh Wu that determined that the plague was not spread by fleas but through the air. He expanded upon the surgery masks he'd seen in the West, and made it from gauze and cotton and added several layers of cloth to filter inhalations.

When the Spanish flu arrived in 1918, the mask was well-known among scientists and the public.

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