10 worst pandemics in human history

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Pandemic … In the spring of 2020, humanity had to face this phenomenon again. Even the high level of development of medicine did not help: a huge number of infected people around the world, about 300 thousand deaths (as of May 14).

Of course, this pandemic was not the first. Many terrible diseases are known that have claimed many more lives. In some cases, the human population was on the verge of extinction altogether.

If you are interested in this topic, take a look at our ranking of the worst pandemics in human history.

10. Black pox

Killed: 300 to 500 million people

A viral infection is transmitted by airborne droplets and enters the body through the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and mouth. The disease got its name because of the characteristic rashes, after the resolution of which deep scars remain on the skin.

The first cases of smallpox disease date back to the 4th century. Residents of Asian countries were affected: China, India, Japan. Doctors did not know how to treat them, so the mortality rate reached 40%. The virus gradually began to spread throughout the world: Europe, the American continent. In the period from the 12th to the 15th centuries, about 1.5 million people died from this disease every year.

Talking about the total number of victims of smallpox is meaningless. “God’s punishment”, as it was called, raged for centuries. Thanks to her, doctors invented a vaccine (1796), but it was too early to talk about a victory over the virus. In the twentieth century, smallpox killed about 500 million people around the world. Mass vaccination helped stop the spread of the virus. The last case of infection was registered in 1977.

9. Plague

Killed: about 140 million people

An acute infectious disease characterized by a high mortality rate. A frightening figure – up to 99% in pulmonary form. The causative agent is the plague stick, which was discovered in 1984.

There are three known plague pandemics, which at different times claimed a huge number of human lives:

  • The Justinian plague lasted from 541 to 700. During this time, 100 million people died. It began in Egypt, then spread throughout the civilized world.
  • The Black Death in 7 years (1346 – 1353) killed a third of the population of Europe. The epidemic began in East China, after which it “walked” across European countries.
  • The third pandemic began in the middle of the 19th century. Inhabitants of port cities suffered. The number of casualties was low. The plague swept through India, China, the Azores, but did not reach Europe.

8. Cholera

Killed: tens of millions

Acute intestinal infection, which has long been considered a local disease. Residents of South America, India, Africa, Southeast Asia were exposed to it. In the 19th century, it spread throughout the world. The death toll is in the tens of millions. During the period from 1816 to 1966, seven pandemics were recorded that raged in different parts of the world, including Russia. For now, cholera outbreaks still occur, mostly in poor countries. This terrible disease no longer poses such a danger as before.

7. Typhus

Deaths: about 3.5 million people

The collective name, until the middle of the XIX century, included a whole group of infectious diseases. Now they are divided into several types: rash, abdominal, recurrent. The most widespread is typhus, which has become an integral part of wars, natural disasters, hunger and devastation. The first typhoid pandemic broke out during the Peloponnesian War (430 – 427 BC) in Athens. Killed 25% of the population, as well as a fourth of the Athenian army. Typhus spread in Russia during the First World War, with 3.5 million deaths.

6. Influenza

Killed: up to 500 thousand die annually

Acute respiratory tract infection. At the moment, more than 2 thousand influenza viruses have been identified. Seasonal epidemics of this disease are no longer surprising. Up to 500 thousand people die from it every year around the world. Sometimes this figure increases significantly. In the past couple of decades, people have feared “bird” and “pig”.

The most massive pandemic is the Spanish flu. It began in January 1918 and lasted for almost two years. A third of the world’s population has been ill with the “Spanish flu”, the death toll ranges from 50 to 100 million people. The fact is that the virus raged during the First World War, so it is impossible to establish the exact number of victims of the disease.

5. Tuberculosis

Killed: Up to 2 million die annually

An infectious disease that most commonly affects the lungs. A third of the world’s population is infected with it. 8 million people fall ill every year, a quarter of them are unable to cope with the disease. If you start treatment at an early stage, there is every chance of defeating tuberculosis. But a comprehensive treatment program was developed only in the twentieth century, previously the disease was considered incurable.

In the 16th and 18th centuries, tuberculosis caused the death of one tenth of the population of Europe. Then the disease received the nickname – the Great White Plague.

Interesting fact. Tuberculosis ended the lives of many talented and famous people. Among them are Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, Franz Kafka, Charlotte Bronte, Frederic Chopin, Vivien Leigh.

4. Malaria

Died: One person dies in the world every 30 seconds

An infectious disease transmitted by the bite of a female “malaria mosquito”. Often found in tropical and subtropical regions. 90% of all cases of infection occur in Black Africa, a part of the continent that is located to the south of the Sahara.

This has not always been the case. Until the 60s of the twentieth century, malaria was also sick in the USSR. The peak of the disease occurred in 1934 – 1935, the number of infected exceeded 9 million people. Now in Russia, cases of malaria are sometimes recorded, but they are all “imported”. For example, in 2018, when the FIFA World Cup was held, 148 diseases were registered. In Africa, Asia and America, the situation is still critical, with one person infected with malaria dying every 30 seconds in the world.

3. Leprosy

Deceased: unknown

A chronic disease characterized by a long incubation period (up to 5 years). Affects the skin, upper respiratory tract, nervous system. Leprosy is mentioned in the Old Testament, but opinions on this matter are divided. Some scientists believe that the disease arose much later.

Leprosy dominated the world for four centuries from XI to XV, the number of deaths and sickness is unknown. The infected were “buried alive”. The man was given a burial service, he was given special clothes and a ratchet. He could not communicate with others. If he went outside the house, he had to notify people about his approach with a loud rattling sound. When the number of infected people increased, they began to open special institutions – leper colony. Now leprosy is a rare disease; 202 patients are registered in Russia.

2. HIV

Deaths: about 36 million people

The term “human immunodeficiency virus” appeared in 1986, the first cases were recorded in 1981. Scientists have proven that the virus has existed since the 1920s. It is transmitted as a result of direct interaction of mucous membranes or damaged skin of a healthy person with the body fluids of an infected person or the use of non-sterile instruments.

After becoming infected with HIV, a person can live no more than 10 years. In the case of antiretroviral therapy, this period will increase significantly. But therapy is prescribed either with a high viral load, or with a decrease in immunity. Between 1981 and the present, 36 million people have died of HIV infection. The number of infected in Russia is 1% of the total population, but this figure is conditional. To find out your HIV status, you need to be tested. It is not uncommon for people to die without ever knowing that they have AIDS. The HIV pandemic is latent. This is a disease that is not customary to talk about.

1. Coronavirus infection COVID-19

Killed: May 14, 2020 – 297 thousand people

An acute respiratory infection that began spreading in the Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of 2019. On January 30, 2020, an emergency of international importance was declared in the field of health, already on March 11, the epidemic was recognized as a pandemic. The number of infected in the world exceeded 4.4 million, the death toll – 297 thousand people (as of May 14, 2020). This figure is growing steadily. The disease is both mild and severe. COVID-19 is not yet fully understood. Virologists say that the consequences may not be very pleasant: brain damage, infertility, decreased immunity. The mortality rate is not very high, but the virus is spreading at a tremendous speed, the elderly and people with chronic diseases are at risk.

Russia ranks second in the world in terms of the number of infected, but it is too early to talk about stabilization, our country has not yet reached a plateau. All that remains is to comply with all security measures and hope for the best.

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