The world is in the grip of a human catastrophe right now. Millions across the globe have lost the battle to the fatal disease with the death toll standing over 292K and affected cases crossing 4.28 million as of 13th May 2020. Though the leaders of the world along with WHO is striving to flatten the curve through lockdowns and stringent measures, the COVID-19 cases are only rising, and it’s too early to predict when normalcy will return in the countries.
In India, the COVID-19 outbreak has entered stage 3, which means it’s difficult to track down the transmission chain. This left the national leaders with no option but to extend the lockdown further and further. But let us tell you, this is not the first pandemic to have struck humankind. There have been deadlier epidemics and pandemics before Corona virus that almost wiped out the population on the planet. The first one being more than 1500 years ago in 430 BC. Scroll on to read more about the deadly pandemics in human history that claimed a huge number of lives.
Humans have survived these 7 deadly pandemics before corona virus
1. Cholera (1817- 1824)
Hailed as the forgotten pandemic, the outbreak was also known as the first Asiatic cholera pandemic or Asiatic cholera that originated in Bengal, India. A certain type of bacteria that contaminates food and water, it spread through several Asian countries and claimed over millions of lives. Post this outbreak, there were several cholera pandemics reported in the following years and shockingly, it continues to claim lives in some of the underdeveloped countries even today. The last outbreak was reported in Zimbabwe in 2018 that killed 48 people. Overall, in the last 200 years, there have been 7 cholera pandemics, with the last one being in 1961 that originated in Indonesia.
2. Spanish Flu (1918-1920)
One of the deadliest pandemics in human history, Spanish Flu also known as the 1918 flu pandemic affected around 500 million people and killed over 50-80 million, worldwide. Though its origin remains unknown, the first few cases were traced post the first World War I and it almost wiped out a quarter of the global population. Spain being the most severely hit, the flu was the result of the H1N1 influenza virus that lasted from 1918 to 1920.
3. Asian Flu (1957-1958)
The Asian Flu caused by the H2N2 virus became a global pandemic in 1957 and lasted for a year. Recombination of avian influenza or bird flu that originated in Guizhou, China killed over 1 million people worldwide. The flu spread to several Asian countries namely Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and India. Though contained in a year, it resurfaced as H3N2 via antigenic shift that leads to the Hong Kong Flu through 1968-1972 and went on to kill over 1 million people worldwide.
4. AIDS – 1981- present
Over 32 million people have lost their lives to AIDS or Human immunodeficiency virus infection (HIV) as of 2018. AIDS was first clinically detected in the United States in 1981. A probable transmission from chimpanzees, evidence shows that it was contracted by humans who indulge in bushmeat or hunting activities. Labeled as the sexually transmitted disease, presently, there are 75 million affected cases around the world. AIDS can also be contracted through contaminated needles, blood transfusion and from mother to child during pregnancy. Though there is no cure as of 2020, it can be controlled through antiretroviral treatment, which helps those affected live a long and healthy life.
5. SARS (2002-2004)
In the early 2000s, a pandemic that shook the world but was quickly contained was SARS. A viral respiratory disease caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus led to a pandemic that affected over 8K and killed 774 people. Assumed to have been transferred from an animal to a human, its origin was traced back to civets and horseshoe bats in Yunnan, China. Does it have anything to do with the ongoing outbreak? Yes, a related virus strain to SARS was discovered in 2019 which has led to the COVID-19 pandemic today!
6. Swine Flu (2009-2010)
Transferred from swine to humans, the first case of Swine Flu was detected in Mexico and before it could be contained, the virus was across the globe already. Affecting over 1.4 billion people, it killed 575K people worldwide in a year. Though most of the pandemics were deemed fatal for the elderly, the Swine Flu or H1N1 resulted in killing kids and younger groups more. It exposed the vulnerable healthy capacity of the underdeveloped as well as developed countries despite having advanced so much. Today, the vaccine for Swine Flu has been included in the annual vaccine catalog.
7. Ebola (2014 – 2016)
When a pandemic outbreak in a less equipped or an underdeveloped country it is mostly forgotten. Though the first Ebola case was traced in Sudan in 1976, it spread like wildfire in 2014-2016 after an outbreak in Guinea in West Africa. The transmission was massive to an extent that the World Health Organization had to declare it as an epidemic in West Africa. Over 28K affected cases emerged in over two years and killed over 11K people in West Africa. With no cure as of 2020, it is deemed as one of the deadliest viruses to have hit the country.
The world has survived some of the most fatal outbreaks that have claimed over millions of lives so far. Today, as we battle through yet another deadly flu, all hopes are resting on the frontline workers as they strive to flatten the curve and the national leaders, who are implementing stringent measures to break the transmission chain. Despite having advanced in the spheres of science and technology, the COVID-19 outbreak has exposed the susceptibility of even most developed nations as they struggle to save lives today.
What’s your opinion on the ongoing crisis as the global leaders struggle to flatten the curve? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.