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Disease epidemics and Pandemics have been some of the greatest historical threats to
humanity through the ages.
When people reel off numbers and statistics about the great plagues of the past, it can
be easy to lose perspective on just how horrific these national and international tragedies
have been.
Today, we're going to take a look at ten of history's most nightmarish epidemics
and pandemics, and tell you exactly how devastating each one has been.
Number 10.
Yellow Fever – 1694 to 1878 While it may have been a while since you've
even heard about Yellow Fever, from the 1600s to the early 1900s it was one of the most
feared diseases on the planet – though scientists estimate the disease is possibly over three-thousand
years old.
It's described by the World Health Organization as an acute viral haemorrhagic disease transmitted
via mosquito bites.
The key symptoms of the disease are headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, muscle pain,
and jaundice, which gives the disease its name due to the slightly yellow tint it often
gives to the skin of sufferers.
And Yellow Fever is not to be messed with: Those who develop severe symptoms often die
within a week to ten days.
Yellow Fever has spread like wildfire in mosquito filled tropical areas like the Caribbean and
numerous countries in the Americas, including the United States.
The Yellow Fever Epidemics of 1694 to 1855, which ravaged Boston, Philadelphia, and Norfolk,
Virginia, were brutal, but the 1878 outbreaks in Mississippi River Valley were the worst
of all.
Over the Spring and Summer of that year, around 120,000 people were infected with Yellow Fever,
and from thirteen-thousand to twenty-thousand of those infected individuals died from the
Because its infection vector is mosquitos, the disease can spread incredibly quickly
from just one infected person to a whole community in a hot or tropical environment.
Thankfully, scientists have since developed an extremely effective vaccine against the
disease that is generally both affordable and easy to access.
However, this hasn't stopped cases from popping up sporadically in Africa, Asia, and
South America.
Number 9.
Japanese Smallpox Epidemic – 735 – 737 Things really take a turn for the worst with
the horrific Japanese smallpox epidemic of the 700s.
This won't even be the last time we encounter Smallpox on this list, and that's because
it's an extremely infectious and dangerous disease.
Caused by the Variola Major Virus, Smallpox causes fever, vomiting, and infectious sores
and scabbing across the body that can spread the virus through contact.
It can also cause oozing pustules on the tongue and in the throat, which makes the virus spreadable
through droplets in the air released by coughing.
The fatality rate for Smallpox at its worst was as high as a terrifying 30%.
As an example of this truly scary mortality rate in action, we turn to Japan in the 8th
Starting in the Northern Kyushu region in 735, by the time the viral outbreak reached
its peak in 737, it's believed to have killed up to one million people.
The prevalence and deadliness of Smallpox outbreaks in Japan even made a lasting cultural
scar on Japanese folklore, with the belief that the disease was caused by a demonic entity
– because something this awful surely had to be supernatural in nature.
Number 8.
Hong Kong Flu – 1968 – 1970 Back to an old favorite you're also likely
to see a lot more of on this list: The Flu.
Specifically, the H3N2 strain, aka the Hong Kong Flu, the third influenza pandemic to
occur in the 20th Century.
Part of the reason you so often see flus and variations of the flu in major global pandemics
is that it's one of the more hardy and adaptable viruses out there.
Many strains of flu – the Hong Kong Flu included – undergo a process known as antigenic
Quick biology lesson: It's hard to fall victim to the same strain of a virus twice,
because the body's immune system can recognise the virus and create the proper antibodies
to fight it.
When a virus undergoes antigenic shift, though, it's essentially like wearing a disguise
that allows it to mount a sneak attack on the body.
Before your immune system knows what hit it, you're in deep trouble.
That was definitely the case for the victims of the Hong Kong Flu, which is believed to
have mutated from an earlier strain from 1957.
The disease is estimated to have killed between one and four million people worldwide in its
two years of major activity, most of which were people over sixty.
Number 7.
The Antonine Plague – 165 – 180 Next, an ancient plague so brutal it's said
to have aided in the collapse of the legendary Roman Empire.
Also known as the Plague of Galen, named after the Greek physician who first identified it,
this mysterious disease is thought to have been brought back into Roman Empire by Legionaries
who'd done tours in East Asia.
The disease first manifested in Asia Minor, before spreading to Greece, and then eventually
to Italy itself, where it spread like wildfire in the densely-populated cosmopolitan cities
like Rome, killing as many as two-thousand people a day at the height of its devastation.
Nobody could even really understand the plague, let alone fight it.
It's believed that the disease even killed two of the Empire's rulers: Lucius Verus
and Marcus Aurelius.
The final death toll is believed to have been seven-to-ten-percent of the Roman Empire,
though some estimate it as high as fifteen percent, as it spread into other European
countries like Spain and further into Egypt and South Africa.
And what was this mystery disease believed to be?
Based on accounts of symptoms at the time, scholars believe it was most likely an outbreak
of Smallpox.
We told you it would come back.
Number 6.
The Third Plague – 1855 The Third Plague was a record breaker in a
number of terrible categories.
It not only straddled an over one hundred-year period, from 1855 to 1959, it was also the
first case of bubonic plague to strike all five major continents – with major outbreaks
in Hong Kong in 1894, Bombay in 1896, Sydney in 1900, Cape Town in 1901, and Los Angeles
in 1924.
It also caused around twelve million deaths during its reign of terror, devastating populations
worldwide, and it inspired containment measures unlike anything the world had ever seen before,
to varying degrees of success.
Having gained knowledge of the virus' transmission through fleas and rats, as well as its early
warning signs and symptoms, the infected areas mounted a hardcore defense against the invading
Towards the end of the 19th century, doctors were experimenting with “plague serums”
that often killed as many people as they cured.
Other methods used involved vast quarantines and controlled rodent burns meant to contain
the spread.
Ultimately, a lot of these methods weren't much use, but it did set precedents in terms
of the scale of global reaction to a major viral pandemic.
Number 5.
HIV/AIDS – 1981 – Present One of the most well-known sexually transmitted
diseases of all time is the Human Immuno-Deficiency Virus – and the Acquired Immune Deficiency
Syndrome that sometimes results from it if untreated.
More commonly known as HIV and AIDS.
The disease spreads through bodily fluids in sexual contact, or through the sharing
of needles or botched blood transfusions.
The real danger of the disease is that it remains virtually symptomless for an extremely
long period of time compared to many diseases, allowing it to infect huge numbers of people
during this period.
If left untreated, the disease can lead to infected people becoming devastatingly immunocompromised,
often leading to death from another infection that the body can no longer fight off.
The modern HIV/AIDS epidemic first became known in 1981, and has continued through to
There are currently around 37.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS today, and since its
discovery, the disease has killed over twenty-five-million people.
What makes the HIV/AIDS epidemic particularly egregious is the poor government response
to containing the outbreak and properly treating those infected.
The attitude towards the virus was exemplified by the advice Washington gave the Center for
Disease Control in approaching the outbreak, with the gist of their guidance being to “Look
pretty and do as little as possible.”
As a result, millions of the deaths that resulted from HIV/AIDS were likely extremely preventable
if the proper treatment had been given.
Many of the people infected with HIV/AIDS – especially during the early years – were
gay, African-American, poor, and drug-users.
This is often stated as the main reason for the lax governmental response to the disease.
Thankfully, in the last few decades, research into HIV/AIDS has pioneered treatments that
give sufferers long and fulfilling lives in spite of their illness.
Number 4.
Plague of Justinian – 541 – 542 Now, on to a plague of truly mythic proportions.
In more recent years, the sheer extent of the effect of the Plague of Justinian has
been cast into doubt, but many historical accounts of this plague place its death toll
between twenty-five and fifty-million – around ten percent of the world population at the
Much like the more recent Third Plague we mentioned earlier, this was likely another
case of the extremely dangerous bubonic plague spread by rats and their fleas across the
Byzantine Empire in the 6th Century.
The Plague of Justinian likely originated in Asia, but infected rats were inadvertently
brought into African nations like Egypt through Roman trade routes.
Like almost all major outbreaks of the bubonic plague, cases spread like wildfire across
the cosmopolitan empire, bringing death and destruction wherever it went.
After hearing enough of these accounts, you begin to really understand the sentiment behind
the old cliché “avoid it like the plague.”
Number 3.
Spanish Flu – 1918 – 1919 These final three are the deadliest pathogenic
outbreaks in the history of mankind, starting with history's most dangerous case of Influenza:
The Spanish Flu of 1918, which devastated a Post-World-War-One world with a confirmed
forty-to-fifty-million deaths across the globe.
The disease is believed to have originated in military personnel returning from the battlegrounds
of the war and introducing the disease back into civilian populations, where it went on
to infect a third of the global population.
While like many flus, this disease was particularly deadly to the young and elderly, what made
the Spanish Flu even more horrifying was the fact it also had an extremely high mortality
rate of healthy young people aged around twenty-five.
The lack of effective flu vaccines at the time allowed the Spanish Flu to sweep across
the globe like the grim reaper, claiming the lives of tens of millions.
Number 2.
Smallpox – 1520 And we return to a Smallpox one last time,
for the only incidence in recorded history where a virus was complicit in a man-made
genocide multiple times.
Until its eventual eradication through treatment and the development of vaccines, Smallpox
was one of the greatest threats to human life.
In Europe in the 1800s, it's believed that the virus killed almost half a million people
every year.
In the late 1700s, it's believed Native Americans were murdered by being tricked into
accepting Smallpox-infected blankets by the British and Americans, accounting for almost
90% of indigenous people killed at the time.
But this specific example, occurring in the year 1520, shows that Smallpox being brought
into South America by Spanish Conquistadors may have been the final nail in the coffin
of the Aztecs.
After being introduced into the Aztec coastal territories by the Spanish in the mid-to-late
1510s, the disease spread inwards, until it reached the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan
in 1520.
A year and fifty-six-million-deaths later, the Aztec civilisation fell, leaving the territory
that would later become modern Mexico up for grabs.
And you better believe the Conquistadors grabbed it, stepping over millions of Aztec bodies
to do so.
Today the disease is making a global comeback tour, thanks to overprivileged first world
soccer moms who don't believe in vaccines.
And finally Number 1.
The Bubonic Plague, aka The Black Death – 1347 – 1351
We've saved the very worst for last.
When it comes to The Black Death of the 14th Century, the lucky ones died quickly.
The unlucky ones lived long enough to see society collapse around them, as their body
erupted in the large, oozing buboes that gave the disease its name before the unbearable
sickness and pain brought them to their end.
The Black Death killed a third, and by some estimates, almost half, of Europe's population.
In the four-year period this disease was most active, after being carried into mainland
Europe by stowaway rats with their own infected stowaway fleas on trading ships, it killed
over two-hundred-million people.
The devastation of the Black Death was so horrific that it took the continent over two-hundred
years to return to its pre-plague population, and left its mark as one of history's greatest
catastrophes – killing roughly twice the number of people as World War One and Two
So, remember, folks: Wash your hands and don't kiss any rats you find on random ships.
Thanks for watching this episode of The Infographics Show!
If you're doing the right thing and staying indoors, don't worry about getting bored,
we've got plenty more viral videos to keep you entertained.
Why not check out “Diseases That Will Kill You The Quickest” and “Scientists Wake
Up Ancient Viruses Unknown to Man.”
Stay safe, and stay healthy!


人類史上最悪の伝染症 TOP 10 (Pandemics Worse Than Novel Coronavirus in the History of Mankind)

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ally.chang 2020 年 4 月 16 日 に公開
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