Coronavirus has certainly taken the world by a shock but this is not the first time. There have been pandemics much bigger in scale than the current COVID-19. Coronavirus has killed over 7000 people but there have been diseases that killed over 200 million people. Yes that’s not a typing mistake that’s a real number. Here are 5 of the biggest pandemics like coronavirus (By death tolls) :
5. HIV/AIDS (1981-present)
DEATH TOLL : 25-35 Million
HIV(Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that targets the immune system and damages it. The immune system is the body’s way of fighting infections. Untreated HIV can kill the T cells of the immune system also called CD4 cells. Over time HIV kills more and more of CD4 results resulting in no resistance against infections and cancer.
AIDS(Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) is a disease developed in people with HIV. If a person has HIV it doesn’t actually mean that he has AIDS.
HIV/AIDS is a global pandemic. In 2018 alone 770,000 deaths were caused due to HIV. Started in 1981 HIV has killed 25-35 million people.
In 2017, approximately 1 million people in the United States had HIV; 14% did not realize that they were infected.
4. Plague of Justinian (541-542)
DEATH TOLL : 30-50 Million
Plague of Justinian that majorly affected the Eastern Roman empire especially it’s capital. The plague originated from China. Some historians also believe that the Plague of Justinia was the deadliest plague in history resulting in the death of 30-50 million people. It wiped out 13-26% of the world’s population during its first outbreak.
The plague’s death toll is compared to deaths occurred in the Black death but later research confirmed that it was exaggerated.
It not only killed people but also destroyed the economy completely. A lot of people didn’t die directly because of the plague but they died due to the side effects of the plague.
3. Spanish Flu (1918-1919)
DEATH TOLL : 40-50 Million
The 1918 Influenza pandemic or more popularly known as the Spanish Flu.It was the first of the two H1N1 influenza virus pandemic. It was estimated to have affected 500 million people worldwide and had a death total of 40-50 million people. It first developed in parts of Europe, United States and parts of Asia. At that time there were no effective drugs to cure the disease.
People were advised to wear masks, avoid public gathering, School, theaters and businesses were shut down.
It was called as Spanish Flu because spain was one of the first countries where the disease was identified. It wiped out 25% of the United States population. In India the mortality rate was 50 per 1000 people. Spanish flu remains the world’s most deadliest flu pandemic.
2. Smallpox (1520-1980)
DEATH TOLL : 56 Million
Smallpox was a disease caused by viruses Variola major and Variola minor. The last case of Smallpox naturally occurring was diagnosed in 1977. In 1980 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that smallpox was completely eradicated. Smallpox vaccination was one of the biggest achievements in human history.
The origin of smallpox is unknown but it is said to have killed upto 300 million people but the official numbers only count up to 56 million.
Only 2 diseases have been completely eradicated till date. Smallpox was the first disease to be completely eradicated, the second being rinderpest in 2011.
1. Black Death (1347-1351)
DEATH TOLL : 200 Million
Black Death also known as great Bubonic Plague or great plague was one of the most devastating pandemics to have been recorded till date. It struck in Europe and Asia in the mid 1300. The plague came to Europe when 12 ships from black sea docked at Sicilian port of Messina. Most sailors on those ships were dead and those who were alive were highly ill and had black boils all over the body.
In the next 5 years the black death killed more than 20 million people in Europe more than ⅓ of Europe’s population. It wiped out over 200 million people in the world. It is estimated that the black death reduced the world’s population from 475 million to 275-300 million.
|Name||Time period||Type / Pre-human host||Death toll|
|Antonine Plague||165-180||Believed to be either smallpox or measles||5M|
|Japanese smallpox epidemic||735-737||Variola major virus||1M|
|Plague of Justinian||541-542||Yersinia pestis bacteria / Rats, fleas||30-50M|
|Black Death||1347-1351||Yersinia pestis bacteria / Rats, fleas||200M|
|New World Smallpox Outbreak||1520 – 1980||Variola major virus||56M|
|Great Plague of London||1665||Yersinia pestis bacteria / Rats, fleas||100,000|
|Italian plague||1629-1631||Yersinia pestis bacteria / Rats, fleas||1M|
|Cholera Pandemics 1-6||1817-1923||V. cholerae bacteria||1M+|
|Third Plague||1885||Yersinia pestis bacteria / Rats, fleas||12M (China and India)|
|Yellow Fever||Late 1800s||Virus / Mosquitoes||100,000-150,000 (U.S.)|
|Russian Flu||1889-1890||Believed to be H2N2 (avian origin)||1M|
|Spanish Flu||1918-1919||H1N1 virus / Pigs||40-50M|
|Asian Flu||1957-1958||H2N2 virus||1.1M|
|Hong Kong Flu||1968-1970||H3N2 virus||1M|
|HIV/AIDS||1981-present||Virus / Chimpanzees||25-35M|
|Swine Flu||2009-2010||H1N1 virus / Pigs||200,000|
|SARS||2002-2003||Coronavirus / Bats, Civets||770|
|Ebola||2014-2016||Ebolavirus / Wild animals||11,000|
|MERS||2015-Present||Coronavirus / Bats, camels||850|
|COVID-19||2019-Present||Coronavirus – Unknown (possibly pangolins)||6,400 (as of Mar 15, 2020)|