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The 10 deadliest epidemics throughout history

Antonine Plague (165-180 AD)

Antonine Plague (165-180 AD)

Also known as the plague of Galen, this plague was possibly caused by smallpox or measles.

Almost 2 000 deaths per day were recorded in Rome. The total death toll was about 5 million.

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The 10 deadliest epidemics throughout history

The 10 deadliest epidemics throughout history

https://www.health24.com/Medical/infectious-diseases/News/the-10-deadliest-epidemics-throughout-history-20170928

health24.com

10

Key Ideas

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 in Britain alone.

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.

Cocolitzli epidemic (1576)

Cocolitzli refers to a collection of pests. Symptoms were much like Ebola but included a dark tongue, jaundice, and neck nodules.

Cocolotzli caused millions of deaths in the territory of New Spain, which is present-day Mexico.

Plague of Justinian (541-542)

This pandemic affected the Eastern Roman Empire, specifically Constantinople and port cities along the Mediterranean sea. Necrosis of the limbs was one of the terrifying symptoms.

An estimated 25 million people died. The plague returned in waves but was not as severe as this one.

Antonine Plague (165-180 AD)

Also known as the plague of Galen, this plague was possibly caused by smallpox or measles.

Almost 2 000 deaths per day were recorded in Rome. The total death toll was about 5 million.

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.

The Black Death (1334)

The Great Plague started in China and spread all along trade routes to Constantinople and Europe.
An estimated 60% of the European population was wiped out.

The Great Flu Epidemic (1918)

The Great Flu claimed between 20 million and 40 million lives. This disease killed more people than WW1.

HIV/Aids global pandemic  (1960s – present)

It is believed that HIV originated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo around 1920 when the disease was spread from chimpanzees to humans.

The first cases of AIDs were reported in 1981, and since then, HIV has resulted in an estimated 65 million infections and 25 million deaths.

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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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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 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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We know what it is

Unlike the AIDs virus that took more than two years to identify, the new virus took only ten days. We know:

  • It is a new virus from group 2B
  • Genetic...
We know how to detect the virus

A test to detect the virus has been available since January 13.

The situation is improving in China

For several weeks now, the number of cases diagnosed daily is dropping.

From a very detailed epidemiological follow-up in other countries, we know outbreaks are very specific to areas and can be controlled easier.

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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 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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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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Flattening the curve
Flattening the curve

It means that all the social distancing measures being adopted these days in many countries aren’t so much about preventing illness but rather slowing down the rate at which people get sick with...

Preventing system overload

Staying home during the pandemic helps prevent health systems from being overloaded.
Overloading hospitals can likely be averted with protective measures like closing schools, canceling mass gatherings, working from home, self-quarantine, self-isolation, avoiding crowds. All these keep the virus from spreading fast.