The flu came in two waves, starting in 1918 and ending in 1920. Mr. Johnson said even the 19th-century cholera outbreaks, with a smaller death toll, resulted in advances. The Third Plague Pandemic, and arguably the most important in terms of what we know about the virus today, began in China in the 1850s. Searchers looked for dead bodies and took them at night to plague pits for burial.” There were no treatments. Another deadly characteristic of this flu was that it had high mortality in a variety of age groups, not just the very young and old we expect to have weaker immune systems. A number of deadly flu outbreaks have occurred over the years, but the 1918 Spanish flu is among the worst in history. “Although we may never know the exact magnitudes of the depopulation, it is estimated that upwards of 80–95 percent of the Native American population was decimated within the first 100–150 years following 1492,” according to a 2010 paper in the Journal of Economic Perspectives. As of April 15, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported 605,390 cases of COVID-19 in the United States. The Antonine Plague (165-180) Death Toll: 5 million 8. The Asian Flu (1957-1958) Death Toll: 1.1 million 10. From the White House to the CDC, political and institutional failures cascaded through the system and opportunities to mitigate the pandemic were lost. However, well after the Black Death, the plague continued to cause periodic pandemics throughout Europe and Asia, including the Great Plague of Milan. While the world continues to suffer from the onslaught of COVID-19, its toll has yet to approach the grim statistics of history's deadliest pandemic–the Black Death. 1880, likely from Cassell's "Illustrated History of England," depicts the streets during the Great Plague of London in 1665. The Hong Kong flu (H3N2) originated in China and was the second-worst flu pandemic of the 20th century, behind the famous 1918 Spanish flu featured later on this list. Few societies have been spared by this highly infectious bacteria, which is transmitted via feces-contaminated water and causes severe diarrhea and vomiting. Unlike many of the pandemics on this list, HIV is not transmitted from casual contact. Despite the common name of the pandemic, scientists are not entirely sure where the virus originated, though they do know it was caused by an H1N1 virus (similar to swine flu) that originated in birds. Empires have fallen. Ferrara in northern Italy did not experience a single death from the plague because it implemented strict border controls, sanitation laws, and personal hygiene practices. “Scientists working in Bavaria in 2005,” Snowden wrote, “identified the plague bacillus in skeletal remains from a sixth-century cemetery at Ascheim, strongly suggesting that the traditional diagnosis of bubonic plague is accurate.”, The plague in Tournai, then part of France, as depicted in "The Annales of Gilles de Muisit" from the mid-14th century. Hundreds of millions of people have died. DEATHS FROM PANDEMICS, FROM ANTIQUITY TO THE MODERN ERA, In "The Plague in Rome," painted in 1869, artist Jules Elie Delaunay creates an allegorical representation of the scourge breaking down doors. Cape Town - the plague paved the way for racial segregation While this pandemic was much less deadly than the one in 1918, the virus was especially infectious, contributing to its spread around the world. That’s thanks to John Snow, an English physician who almost single-handedly took on the bacteria. Frank M. Snowden, a Yale historian who studies pandemics, wrote in his book “Epidemics and Society” that definitive accounts of this plague have largely vanished. The Third Plague (1885) Death Toll: 12 million 7. The Black Death (also known as the Pestilence, the Great Mortality, or the Plague) was the deadliest pandemic recorded in human history. The Third Plague - 12 million people killed, 1855 -1960 Beginning in Yunnan, China, this bubonic plague spread to every inhabited continent. While it’s not certain which disease caused this pandemic, it’s thought to be measles, smallpox, or a combination of both. ... Death toll of select plague … The Plague of Justinian is the first known outbreak of the plague that would later become the famous Black Death, as well as the Third Plague in the late 19th century. They also brought smallpox, measles and other viruses for which New World inhabitants had no immunity. A second key feature in the plague concept is mortality estimates: a high death toll is necessary to confirm plague as an agent of historical change that transformed all aspects of life. Dan Carpenter is a proponent of preparedness, homesteads, and modern self sufficiency. Plague, the disease, was caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. “The ancient world,” one scholar wrote, “never recovered from the blow inflicted upon it by the plague.”, Josse Lieferinxe's "Saint Sebastian Interceding for the Plague Stricken," ca. It reached the Byzantine capital of Constantinople in 541 A.D., and was soon claiming up to 10,000 lives per day—so many that unburied bodies were eventually … By the beginning of the 20th century, there were cases on all six inhabited continents, although its most devastating effects were in China and India. By the year 541, the plague was killing up to 10,000 people a day. The bacterium that caused the plague, Yersinia pestis, is thought to have originated in Asia more than 2,000 years ago and eventually moved into Europe through trade ships. Even President Woodrow Wilson was stricken, nearly derailing talks at the Paris Peace Conference, where the flu left him bedridden for days. While the devastation is real, eventually humans manage to press on. Antonine Plague. Before joining The Post in 2004, he was a reporter at The Boston Globe. Death Toll: 95,000/year (more than 1 million historical total). Today, HIV can be well managed in developed nations so it doesn’t progress to AIDS, but AIDS is still incredibly deadly in developing nations without access to adequate health care and preventative measures. How many will die, how societies will change — those questions are impossible to fathom as the disease rages. Let’s look at the 10 worst pandemics in human history. “His gut told him that these deaths meant the next big flu pandemic.” Hilleman requested samples of the virus be shipped to U.S. drugmakers right away so they could get a vaccine ready. Nobody has ever nailed down the exact cause, but symptoms recorded by a physician named Galen — gruesome skin sores, high fever, diarrhea and sore throats — strongly suggest it was smallpox and measles. 1879. It was the Spanish flu. Smallpox remains the only disease that has been successfully eradicated worldwide as a result of intense international vaccination and isolation efforts between the 1960s and 1980s. The Black Death is widely thought to have been the result of plague, caused by infection with the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Swine flu was a hodgepodge of several different flu strains that had never been collectively seen together. “The central explanation lies within characteristic features of medieval society in a dynamic phase of modernization heralding the transformation from a medieval to early modern European society,” Ole J. Benedictow, a University of Oslo historian, wrote in History Today. The bacterium, Yersinia pestis, is thought to have originated in Africa and then migrated to Europe through fleas on rats. Sniffing a sponge soaked in vinegar was also an option.”. It’s easy to forget that after the Dark Ages following the Black Death, Europe entered its Renaissance, one of the great periods of creativity and ingenuity in human history. The accepted hypothesis is that the virus jumped from chimps to humans through bush hunting in central Africa. Please enable JavaScript for the best experience. Isolation and quarantines were used to slow down transmission. While doctors, lawyers and royalty fled town, the poor were ravaged by the disease. In addition to its high death toll, what made the Black Death so remarkable was the speed with which it occurred. “A pestilence,” Procopius wrote of the plague, “by which the whole human race was near to being annihilated.” Researchers are still digging up evidence connected to the plague all these years later. While numerous plague outbreaks occurred in Europe during the 17th century, this was one of the worst. Before covid-19, this was the world’s most recent pandemic, infecting as much as 21 percent of the world’s population. Trade ships moving these rats around only perpetuated the spread throughout Europe and Asia. Because this outbreak occurred in the modern era (at least relative to the original Black Death), scientists had access to better research tools and methods. The Great Plague of Milan was a series of outbreaks of the bubonic plague (featured later in this list) that happened between 1629 and 1631. Sources: CDC, American Scientist, The Lancet, Social Science & Medicine, WHO, National Geographic, news and historical research. Big ships carried goods across ever-widening shipping routes throughout Europe and beyond. The swift spread of the disease continues to astonish historians and epidemiologists. “Through carefully mapping the outbreak, he finds that everyone affected has a single connection in common: they have all retrieved water from the local Broad Street pump,” according to a CDC history. Lt. Frank C. Morrison, a doctor on the destroyer Huntington — where half of the crew had been stricken with Asian flu — checks the temperatures of crewmen G.R. It is estimated that 500 million people, or one-third of the global population at the time, were infected with the virus. In "The Plague in Rome," painted … He is the founder and principal of, 10 Deadliest Pandemics In History Were Much Worse Than Coronavirus So Far, measles, smallpox, or a combination of both. While some scientists suspected cholera was transmitted through the air, Snow thought otherwise. We are now within the seventh cholera pandemic. The Great Plague of Milan was so deadly, it is thought to be a major contributor to the decline in power of the Republic of Venice, which had risen to prominence during the Renaissance. ... perhaps what gave the Black Death its name. Pneumonic plague … (Library of Congress/Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division). “Something about their eyes tipped him off,” according to Smithsonian Magazine. Although we are no longer in the midst of a flu pandemic, H3N2 has stuck around as one strain of seasonal flu we see every year. More than 2,000 people died daily. In the United States, the virus ravaged the gay community and IV drug users. By far the deadliest pandemic of all time, the Black Death radically shaped the course of human history, plunging Europe into the Dark Ages. Influenza A pandemics have occurred multiple times throughout history when new, deadly strains of the influenza A virus evolved. The virus causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a disease in which the immune system gives out, causing people to die not from HIV itself, but from a variety of secondary infections such as pneumonia. Death toll of select plague epidemics in Europe and North Africa 1665-1838. When infected rats died, leaving the fleas hungry, fleas switched to feeding on human blood, spreading the plague they had picked up from the rodents. The plague was so deadly that today it is thought to contribute to the eventual fall of the Roman Empire, making this plague one of the major events of Western history. At that time, the Roman Empire spread far beyond Italy into the Mediterranean region, as well as parts of Africa and Asia. The doctor later regarded as the godfather of vaccines was working at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in 1957 when he read a New York Times article about a nasty flu outbreak in Hong Kong that mentioned glassy-eyed children at a clinic. “Watchmen locked and kept guard over infected houses,” the National Archives said. The Russian Flu (1889-1890) Death Toll: 1 million 11. President George Washington and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson high-tailed it out of town, ultimately settling on Washington as the nation’s capital. COVID-19 has us all thinking about public health, but looking back, there have been many pandemics before, and we persist in spite of them. Governments have cracked. (VOLKER HARTMANN/DDP/AFP via Getty Images). Although the death toll is unknown, many estimates put it at more than 50 million and some as high as 100 million, making it the deadliest pandemic … (1918–1920) The deadliest flu pandemic in history started in 1918 and infected about … The overall mortality rate … The number of infected is staggering —as many as 500 million, with estimates of 50 million deaths worldwide, according to the CDC. Annual deaths due to the Third Plague Pandemic in Hong Kong 1894-1902. This caused people to become desperate. All we can do is prepare and persist. “Parish officials provided food. Six of the seven major cholera pandemics have originated in India. (Photo 12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images), History Today, a monthly magazine of historical writing published in London, calls this pandemic “the greatest catastrophe ever.” The number of deaths — 200 million — is just astounding. Copyright © 2021 The Federalist, a wholly independent division of FDRLST Media, All Rights Reserved. The adaptability of the flu is why flu shots change each year. He ordered the pump-handle turned off, and people stopped getting sick. “This system for long-distance trade was supplemented by a web of lively short and medium-distance trade that bound together populations all over the Old World,” Benedictow wrote, dubbing this the “golden age of bacteria.”, Explorers arrived to the New World bearing more than just turnips and grapes. While COVID-19 is one of the largest pandemics of the 21st century, you might be wondering how it stacks up to the terrible pandemics of the past. These have occurred across all 50 states and have resulted in 24,582 deaths. We are all feeling the effects of the pandemic. However, nowadays people do not get smallpox. McKay, center, and M. Kosmides before they go ashore on liberty in Norfolk, Va., on Aug. 23, 1957. The Third Plague Pandemic > Death toll: 12-15 million ... which intensified after the Black Plague as Jews were blamed for the pandemic. Interestingly, this pandemic led to much quality scientific research about this and the previous plagues. The Black Death pandemic resulted in the deaths of up to 75–200 million people in Eurasia and North Africa, peaking in Europe from 1347 to 1351. It even built state-funded plague hospitals outside the city’s walls to prevent larger outbreaks from single cases (although the disease was thought to be caused by corrupted air rather than a bacterium). While scientists have synthesized the 1918 flu virus in the lab, they are still not certain exactly why this particular flu was so deadly. Active trade and military movements contributed to the disease’s quick spread. COVID-19 has us all thinking about public health, but looking back, there have been many pandemics before, and we persist in spite of them. Like all flus, this virus was easily transmitted from person to person, causing it to spread rapidly throughout the world. (Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images), Again, blame the rats with those pesky fleas on their backs: “They were attracted by city streets filled with rubbish and waste, especially in the poorest areas,” according to the National Archives in England. The Third Plague refers to the most recent pandemic outbreak of bubonic plague, which began in 1885 in the Chinese province of Yunnan. (AP/AP), One man saw it coming: Maurice Hilleman. Although cholera today does not majorly affect developed nations due to their access to clean water, the disease thrives in developing areas that lack reliable water sources and solid sanitation systems. The 17th Century Great Plagues (1600) Death Toll: 3 millions 9. Graphics reporting by Aaron Steckelberg. Historically, the prevalence of the virus among disenfranchised groups contributed to the explosion of the pandemic because it was not as quickly addressed as other pandemics, including modern ones such as COVID-19. Warning: This graphic requires JavaScript. “People thought impure air caused the disease and could be cleansed by smoke and heat. Black Death, pandemic that ravaged Europe between 1347 and 1351, taking a proportionately greater toll of life than any other known epidemic or war up to that time. This pandemic lasted many years. Altogether, the third plague pandemic claimed around 12 million lives in India – it was a very Indian pandemic. Smallpox remained a problematic disease for centuries, with the last natural outbreak occurring in the United States in 1949. The virus causes severe diarrhea and is spread through raw sewage, which creates a vicious cycle of infection in areas experiencing an outbreak. 1497, depicts Saint Sebastian kneeling to pray before God on behalf of people suffering from or killed by the plague. (Covid-19 disease modeling predicts U.S. deaths to potentially reach 240,000.) Schools are closed, businesses have shut their doors, and nobody knows what’s coming next. > Death toll: 2-3.5 million (33% to 60% of Japan population) > Disease/Cause: Smallpox > Affected area: Japan > Duration: 735-737 The outbreak of the plague continued to spread in the following years to large parts of India, culminating in 1907, where the death toll reached more than one million. Enterprise reporter focusing on history, the social sciences, and culture. The novel coronavirus has taken just a few months to sweep the globe. Generations have been annihilated. Children were encouraged to smoke to ward off bad air. If you caught it, you had roughly two weeks to live. Death Toll: Between 25 and 35 million 6. The correct number is 35 million. However, diaries from Procopius, a noted historian back then, indicate that many thought the end of civilization was upon them. Cholera is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The death toll from covid-19 began to rise steadily in early March, then more sharply as the disease spread to every state and most U.S. territories. The disease is thought to have been brought into the city of Mantua by French and German soldiers in the Thirty Years’ War, and it spread from there. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) first emerged in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the late 1970s. This viral infection is endemic to South America and sub-Saharan Africa. Though 70,000 people in the United States ultimately died, “some predicted that the U.S. death toll would have reached 1 million without the vaccine that Hilleman called for,” according to the Philadelphia vaccine history project. Like the Plague of Justinian, the Black Death was caused by the bubonic plague. Just over a month has passed since America's death toll hit 300,000, and health experts expect COVID-19 to kill half a million people in the U.S. by sometime in February. Because native populations of South America had none of the immunities to Eurasian diseases that Europeans had developed over the centuries, they were highly susceptible to these diseases upon first contact. Asian Flu (2 million killed) 1956 - 1958. (Josse Lieferinxe/The Walters Art Museum), Thought to be the world’s first episode of bubonic plague, its namesake was the Byzantine emperor who was in power when it hit, likely arriving in the form of infected fleas hitching rides across the world on the backs of rodents. The pandemic is believed to have originated in Africa and then spread to Europe through infected rats on merchant ships. Trade and military routes over the years have contributed to spreading this disease throughout the world. The disease swept through South and Central America, as well as the Caribbean, killing millions. Up there especially, it … For example, at the start of the pandemic, 60 percent of Florence’s population died within a few months. For now, we are social distancing, isolating, and worrying about ourselves, our families, and communities. Today, bubonic plague is much rarer. This pandemic … “Sometimes, patients were bled with leeches,” the National Archives said. Spread by female mosquitoes, the disease gets its name because it often turns the skin of sufferers a distinct shade of yellow. It remains one of the great medical mysteries of all time. Until then, there were periodic outbreaks throughout the Mediterranean world. Armies and tradesman returning from Asia. While the bulk of the deaths occurred between 541 and 542, this pandemic was stubborn, and did not fade entirely until 750. The Columbian Exchange, or the exchange of animals and plants between Europe and the Americas as a result of the voyages of Christopher Columbus, led to one of the great world pandemics of all time. “Historian and demographer [Noble] David Cook estimates that, in the end, the regions least affected lost 80 percent of their populations; those most affected lost their full populations; and a typical society lost 90 percent of its population.”, An engraving ca. “It’s a powerless feeling, watching someone die”: An anesthesiologist on the frontline of coronavirus outbreak. But history shows that past pandemics have reshaped societies in profound ways. Named after St. Cyprian, a bishop of Carthage (a city in Tunisia) … Death Toll: 75 000–100 000 The Peloponnesian War, recorded by Thucydides, was one of the most pivotal events of Greek history; a war waged between Athens and Sparta. The Third Plague Pandemic, the world's last major outbreak, began in the mid-19th century and lasted well into the 20th. Among the worst of these diseases was smallpox, caused by the variola virus. The Asian Flu virus originated in China in early 1956 before … This ancient pandemic swept through the Roman Empire in the late second century. The virus killed up to one-third of the entire population of Canada’s northern Labrador region. Photo editing by Nick Kirkpatrick, Haley Hamblin and Troy Witcher. “Health officials widely credited that vaccine with saving many lives.”, A crane lifts culled pigs into a container on a farm where 80 pigs died of swine fever on March 4, 2006 in Haltern, Germany. Design and development by Brandon Ferrill. But it certainly won’t last forever. Almost exactly 100 years ago, one-third of the world's population found itself infected in a deadly viral pandemic. 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