History of Pandemics




History of Pandemics

Pandemics have been a part of human history for thousands of years. Most recently, the 2019 novel coronavirus has spread across the world, bringing to mind other pandemics in the history of humankind. A pandemic is defined as a disease that spreads through multiple countries across the world. Pandemics typically claim millions of lives, and they can only be stopped when a cure of vaccine is found. COVID-19 has already claimed more than 100,000 lives since it first appeared in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. The disease has also infected more than a million people, leading to concerns in how far the virus will spread. The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March of 2020, and a vaccine for the novel virus is yet to be found. Some of the most severe pandemics in human history include HIV/AIDS, several flu pandemics as well as the bubonic plague.

The HIV/AIDS appeared in the late twentieth century in Africa and spread to the rest of the world over the next decades. The pandemic has since killed more than 38 million people since 1980 (Byrne 71). The disease also infected tens of millions of people, and currently, people infected with the virus can lead healthy lives. There is a treatment for the virus, and there is public awareness on the spread which has controlled the spread of HIV/AIDS.

There have been several influenza pandemics over the years, each claiming millions of lives. In 1968, a new strain of the H2N2 influenza virus appeared in Hong Kong and quickly spread to other countries within three months. The 1968 flu pandemic had a relatively low death rate of 0.5%, claiming more than a million lives worldwide, but Hong Kong as hard hit by the break out with about 500,000 deaths. The 1918 flu pandemic, popularly known as the Spanish flu, claimed between twenty and fifty million lives worldwide (Barro et al 38). Unlike other flu outbreaks, the 1918 flu pandemic claimed the lives of healthy people, while the others typically attacked the elderly and immunocompromised. The Asian flu pandemic that struck between 1956 and 1958 started in China and spread to other parts of the world. Over the two years, more than two million people lost their lives to the virus.

The bubonic plague, famously known as the Black Death, is one of the most horrific pandemics in human history. Asia, Europe, and Africa fell victim to the deadly plague between 1346 and 1353, leaving a death toll of 75-200 million (McMichael 108). The plague was suspected to spread through rats and fleas. Merchant ships transporting goods from one continent and city to another facilitated the spread of the plague across countries as they docked in various parts across the world.

The world is no stranger to pandemics, and the recent 2019 novel coronavirus is a reminder of how fast a disease can spread across the world, leaving death and devastation in its wake. Pandemics usually infect millions of people and claim the lives of some of those infected. Aside from the health effects of the pandemics, they also bring economic problems, and countries shut down almost all activities. For a pandemic to be brought under control, there needs to be some treatment or vaccine to control its spread. One point of comfort in recent times is that with all the advancements in science and technology, it takes shorter periods to find vaccines and cures for new diseases.

Works Cited

Barro, Robert J., José F. Ursúa, and Joanna Weng. The coronavirus and the great influenza pandemic: Lessons from the “spanish flu” for the coronavirus’s potential effects on mortality and economic activity. No. w26866. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2020.

Byrne, Joseph Patrick, ed. Encyclopedia of pestilence, pandemics, and plagues. Greenwood Press, 2008.

McMichael, Anthony J. “Paleoclimate and bubonic plague: a forewarning of future risk?.” BMC biology 8.1 (2010): 108.