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How 5 of History’s Worst Pandemics Finally Ended

How 5 of History’s Worst Pandemics Finally Ended

As human civilizations flourished, so did infectious disease. Large numbers of people living in close proximity to each other and to animals, often with poor sanitation and nutrition, provided fertile breeding grounds for disease. And new overseas trading routes spread the novel infections far and wide, creating the first global pandemics.

Here’s how five of the world’s worst pandemics finally ended.

1. Plague of Justinian—No One Left to Die

Three of the deadliest pandemics in recorded history were caused by a single bacterium, Yersinia pestis, a fatal infection otherwise known as the plague.

The Plague of Justinian arrived in Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, in 541 CE. It was carried over the Mediterranean Sea from Egypt, a recently conquered land paying tribute to Emperor Justinian in grain. Plague-ridden fleas hitched a ride on the black rats that snacked on the grain.

The plague decimated Constantinople and spread like wildfire across Europe, Asia, North Africa and Arabia killing an estimated 30 to 50 million people, perhaps half of the world’s population.

“People had no real understanding of how to fight it other than trying to avoid sick people,” says Thomas Mockaitis, a history professor at DePaul University. “As to how the plague ended, the best guess is that the majority of people in a pandemic somehow survive, and those who survive have immunity.”

2. Black Death—The Invention of Quarantine

The plague never really went away, and when it returned 800 years later, it killed with reckless abandon. The Black Death, which hit Europe in 1347, claimed an astonishing 200 million lives in just four years.

As for how to stop the disease, people still had no scientific understanding of contagion, says Mockaitis, but they knew that it had something to do with proximity. That’s why forward-thinking officials in Venetian-controlled port city of Ragusa decided to keep newly arrived sailors in isolation until they could prove they weren’t sick.

At first, sailors were held on their ships for 30 days, which became known in Venetian law as a trentino. As time went on, the Venetians increased the forced isolation to 40 days or a quarantino, the origin of the word quarantine and the start of its practice in the Western world.

“That definitely had an effect,” says Mockaitis.

READ MORE: How Rats and Fleas Spread the Black Death

3. The Great Plague of London—Sealing Up the Sick

London never really caught a break after the Black Death. The plague resurfaced roughly every 10 years from 1348 to 1665—40 outbreaks in just over 300 years. And with each new plague epidemic, 20 percent of the men, women and children living in the British capital were killed.

By the early 1500s, England imposed the first laws to separate and isolate the sick. Homes stricken by plague were marked with a bale of hay strung to a pole outside. If you had infected family members, you had to carry a white pole when you went out in public. Cats and dogs were believed to carry the disease, so there was a wholesale massacre of hundreds of thousands of animals.

The Great Plague of 1665 was the last and one of the worst of the centuries-long outbreaks, killing 100,000 Londoners in just seven months. All public entertainment was banned and victims were forcibly shut into their homes to prevent the spread of the disease. Red crosses were painted on their doors along with a plea for forgiveness: “Lord have mercy upon us.”

As cruel as it was to shut up the sick in their homes and bury the dead in mass graves, it may have been the only way to bring the last great plague outbreak to an end.

4. Smallpox—A European Disease Ravages the New World

Smallpox was endemic to Europe, Asia and Arabia for centuries, a persistent menace that killed three out of ten people it infected and left the rest with pockmarked scars. But the death rate in the Old World paled in comparison to the devastation wrought on native populations in the New World when the smallpox virus arrived in the 15th century with the first European explorers.

The indigenous peoples of modern-day Mexico and the United States had zero natural immunity to smallpox and the virus cut them down by the tens of millions.

“There hasn’t been a kill off in human history to match what happened in the Americas—90 to 95 percent of the indigenous population wiped out over a century,” says Mockaitis. “Mexico goes from 11 million people pre-conquest to one million.”

Centuries later, smallpox became the first virus epidemic to be ended by a vaccine. In the late 18th-century, a British doctor named Edward Jenner discovered that milkmaids infected with a milder virus called cowpox seemed immune to smallpox. Jenner famously inoculated his gardener’s 8-year-old son with cowpox and then exposed him to the smallpox virus with no ill effect.

“[T]he annihilation of the smallpox, the most dreadful scourge of the human species, must be the final result of this practice,” wrote Jenner in 1801.

And he was right. It took nearly two more centuries, but in 1980 the World Health Organization announced that smallpox had been completely eradicated from the face of the Earth.

READ MORE: How an African Slave in Boston Helped Save Generations from Smallpox

5. Cholera—A Victory for Public Health Research

In the early- to mid-19th century, cholera tore through England, killing tens of thousands. The prevailing scientific theory of the day said that the disease was spread by foul air known as a “miasma.” But a British doctor named John Snow suspected that the mysterious disease, which killed its victims within days of the first symptoms, lurked in London’s drinking water.

Snow acted like a scientific Sherlock Holmes, investigating hospital records and morgue reports to track the precise locations of deadly outbreaks. He created a geographic chart of cholera deaths over a 10-day period and found a cluster of 500 fatal infections surrounding the Broad Street pump, a popular city well for drinking water.

“As soon as I became acquainted with the situation and extent of this irruption (sic) of cholera, I suspected some contamination of the water of the much-frequented street-pump in Broad Street,” wrote Snow.

With dogged effort, Snow convinced local officials to remove the pump handle on the Broad Street drinking well, rendering it unusable, and like magic the infections dried up. Snow’s work didn’t cure cholera overnight, but it eventually led to a global effort to improve urban sanitation and protect drinking water from contamination.

While cholera has largely been eradicated in developed countries, it’s still a persistent killer in third-world countries lacking adequate sewage treatment and access to clean drinking water.

READ MORE: Pandemics that Changed History











See all pandemic coverage here.


How Pandemics End: Learning the Lessons of History

The COVID-19 pandemic has made everyone much better versed in basic epidemiological modeling than they were eight months ago. We have all familiarized ourselves with exhaustive data collection and the analysis of epidemic curves based on prior crises, the reproduction rates of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the daily influx of new cases. Yet, even for professional epidemiologists, the question of when this pandemic will end has no simple answer. Certainty is a luxury rarely afforded to scientists, and this is particularly true in the world of public health.

However, we do know that pandemics do not attack indiscriminately. While we are all susceptible to pathogens, our social structures and the inequities within them shape our pandemic responses, often putting the most marginalized at greater risk. Throughout history, social inequalities, shaped in no small part by centuries of racial injustice, colonial violence and economic divides, have affected how diseases spread and who was most vulnerable to infectious pathogens. When a proper response to a health crisis has been stymied primarily by a lack of political will, then, too, have epidemics exposed the injustice in our societies. .

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The 1957-58 "Asian Flu" Pandemic

First reported in Singapore in February 1957, a new influenza A (H2N2) virus emerged and became known as the “Asian flu.” It spread throughout China and its surrounding regions first, and it arrived in the US by that summer.

Approximately 1.1 million people died worldwide, according to the CDC of those deaths, 116,000 were in the US. Most of the cases affected young children, the elderly and pregnant women. While deadly, the death rate in this pandemic was relatively contained because a vaccine was rapidly developed and made available. There were also antibiotics available to treat secondary infections.


How and when will this pandemic end? We asked a virologist

More than one-third of the world's population is now in lockdown as the world battles the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

We spoke to Belgian virologist Guido Vanham, the former head of virology at the Institute for Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium, and asked him: how will this pandemic end? And on which factors might that depend?

Have you read?

How will this pandemic end?

Guido Vanham (GV): It will probably never end, in the sense that this virus is clearly here to stay unless we eradicate it. And the only way to eradicate such a virus would be with a very effective vaccine that is delivered to every human being. We have done that with smallpox, but that's the only example - and that has taken many years.

So it will most probably stay. It belongs to a family of viruses that we know - the coronaviruses - and one of the questions now is whether it will behave like those other viruses.

It may reappear seasonally - more in the winter, spring and autumn and less in the early summer. So we will see whether that will have an impact.

But at some point in this epidemic - and certainly in the countries that are most affected, like Italy and Spain - there will be saturation, because according to predictions, up to 40% percent of the Spanish and 26% of the Italian population are or have been infected already. And, of course, when you go over 50% or so, even without doing anything else, the virus just has fewer people to infect - and so the epidemic will come down naturally. And that's what happened in in all the previous epidemics when we didn't have any [treatments]. The rate of infection and the number of those susceptible will determine when that happens.

What are some of the factors at play? What do we know, and what don't we know?

GV: The first thing we know, of course, is that it's a very infectious virus - that's probably something that every inhabitant of the world knows. But what is not known is the infectious dose - how many viruses you need to produce an infection - and that will be very difficult to know unless we perform experimental infections.

And we know people develop antibodies. That has been clearly shown in China, but we are not yet sure how protective these antibodies are. There is no convincing evidence yet that people who have recovered get ill again after a few days or weeks - so most probably, the antibodies are at least partially protective. But how long will that protection last for - is it a matter of months or years? The epidemiology in the future will depend on that - on the level of protective immunity that you get at the population level after this wave of infections, which we cannot really stop. We can mitigate it, we can flatten the curve, but we cannot really stop it because at some point we will have to come out of our houses again and go to work and school. Nobody really knows when that will be.

The virus will take its course and there will be a certain level of immunity - but the answer to how long that will last will determine the periodicity and the amplitude of the epidemics to come. Unless, of course, we find a way to block it in a year or so from now with an effective vaccine.

There is also an unresolved question about what determines an individual's susceptibility to this disease. Of course there is age, but that’s not so surprising. People’s immune systems weaken with age. But then there is this concept of co-morbidities, which means that some people, even younger people, get ill because they have other diseases.

It's logical that when you have cancer or diabetes, that you are more susceptible to infections. But what is remarkable - what we do not really understand - is that people with simple hypertension are also very vulnerable to developing this disease. So that's one of the unresolved questions.

And it will be interesting to see what the profile is of people who are infected but do not get ill. We will know in a few months - that question is already being addressed in China. Then you can go back and test for antibodies, because it looks as though everyone who has gone through the infection will develop antibodies - and that those will remain for a while.

There are people that have antibodies and have not presented to to the medical services and claim that they have been healthy all the time. What's the genetic profile of those people as compared with the people who went to the medical wards? That is an interesting question. One hint has already been discovered in China your blood group could be important. It’s very preliminary data, but in a year or so from now we will have a lot of data on that as well.


Epidemics With the Highest Number of Deaths

Plague of Justinian (Byzantine Empire, 541 - 750)

The Plague of Justinian hit humanity between 541 and 542 AD. It was responsible for the highest number of lives lost in an epidemic in history. Estimates believe 100 million people died during this time, which was half the world population. This plague was able to spread so quickly because it was carried on the backs of rodents, whose fleas were infected with the bacteria. These rats traveled all over the world on trading ships and helped spread the infection from China to Northern Africa and all over the Mediterranean. The Plague of Justinian is attributed with having weakened the Byzantine Empire in several ways. The military lost power and was no longer able to fend off intruders. Farmers became sick, and agricultural production declined. With a smaller agricultural base, income taxes fell. Thousands of people died daily at the height of the destructive plague.

Black Plague (Mostly Europe, 1346 to 1350)

The Black Plague claimed the lives of 50 million people from 1346 to 1350. The outbreak began in Asia and, once again, was carried throughout the world by rats covered with infected fleas. After its arrival in Europe, it spread death and destruction. Europe lost 60% of its population to the Black Death. Symptoms of this disease began with swelling of the lymph nodes, either in the groin, armpit, or neck. After 6 to 10 days of infection and sickness, 80% of infected people die. The virus was spread via blood and airborne particles. This epidemic changed the course of European history. The lack of understanding of the origin of the disease led the Christian population to blame the Jewish community of poisoning the water wells as a result of this accusation, thousands of Jews were killed. Others believed it was punishment dealt from Heaven for leading sinful lives. The world saw agricultural shortages as in the Plague of Justinian, and malnutrition and hunger were rampant. After the ending of the Black Death, the decline in population resulted in increased wages and cheap land. The available area was used for animal husbandry and meat consumption throughout the region increased.

HIV/AIDS (Worldwide, 1960- Present)

The HIV/AIDS epidemic began in 1960 and continues to the present day, although the scariest moments happened during the 1980s when the world became informed of its existence. So far, this virus has caused the death of 39 million people. By the 1980s, HIV was believed to infect somebody on every continent. Rare lung infections, rapidly advancing cancers, and unexplained immune deficiencies were rampant among gay men, and at the time, doctors believed it was caused by same-sex activity. A large number of Haitians were also carriers of the virus, which were not named until 1982. Cases were identified in Europe and Africa. In 1983, it was discovered that transmission occurred via heterosexual activities as well. Medicine for treatment was not available until 1987. Today, about 37 million people are living with HIV. For those individuals with access to antiretroviral medication, life expectancy has been extended. Currently, this virus is particularly aggressive in Sub-Saharan Africa, where at least 68% of all global HIV/AIDS infections are found. The reasons for this are many but stem from poor economic conditions and little to no sex education.

Other Epidemics

Other epidemics that have resulted in numerous deaths include the: 1918 Flu (20 million deaths) Modern Plague, 1894-1903 (10 million) Asian Flu, 1957-1958 (2 million) Sixth Cholera Pandemic, 1899-1923 (1.5 million) Russian Flu, 1889-1890 (1 million) Hong Kong Flu, 1968-1969 (1 million) and the Fifth Cholera Pandemic, 1881-1896 (981,899).


Cause of worst mass extinction ever found

A new study reveals what caused most life on Earth to die out during the end-Permian extinction, also known as the Great Dying.

Illustration showing the beginning of the Permian-Triassic mass extinction. 2020.

  • A new paper claims to identify the cause of the Great Dying that occured nearly 252 million years ago.
  • During the worst mass extinction event ever, most of Earth's life perished.
  • The study suggests a volcanic eruption in Siberia spread aerosolized nickel particles that harmed organisms on the planet.

Dinosaurs are the most infamous victims of a mass extinction event 66 million years ago. But an even worse extinction happened 251.9 million years ago.

Called the end-Permian mass extinction or the Great Dying, this most severe of extinction events wiped out about 90 percent of the planet's marine species and 75 percent of terrestrial species. While scientists long have suspected it was initiated by volcanic eruptions in what is now Siberia, until now they haven't been able to explain exactly how so many species died out.

A new paper published in Nature Communications lays out the case that nickel particles that became aerosolized as a result of eruptions in the Siberian Traps region became dispersed through the air and water and were the cause of the ensuing environmental catastrophe. The paper pinpoints huge Norilsk nickel sulfide ore deposits in the Tunguska Basin that "may have released voluminous nickel-rich volcanic gas and aerosols into the atmosphere" as the start of the chain of events that led to the mass extinction.

The study is based on analysis of nickel isotopes that came from late Permian sedimentary rocks gathered from the Buchanan Lake section in the Sverdrup Basin in the Canadian High Arctic. What's notable about the rock samples is that they featured the lightest nickel isotope ratios ever measured, leading the scientists to conclude that the nickel came in the form of aerosolized particles from a volcano.

As the paper outlines, the only comparable nickel isotope values would be those from volcanic nickel sulfide deposits. The scientists write that of all the mechanisms that could result in such values, "the most convincing" explanation is that they got there as "voluminous Ni-rich aerosols" from the Siberian Traps large igneous province (STLIP).

The deadly effect of nickel particles

When the nickel got into the water, it wreaked havoc on the underwater ecosystem.

Co-author of the study, associate professor Laura Wasylenki of Northern Arizona University, explained that "nickel is an essential trace metal for many organisms, but an increase in nickel abundance would have driven an unusual surge in productivity of methanogens, microorganisms that produce methane gas. Increased methane would have been tremendously harmful to all oxygen-dependent life." This would have affected living creatures in and out of the water. The professor believes their data offers direct evidence that links nickel-rich aerosols, changes to the ocean, and the mass extinction that followed. "Now we have evidence of a specific kill mechanism," she added.

NAU associate professor Laura Wasylenki.Credit: Northern Arizona University.

Other theories on the Great Dying

Previous studies have pointed to other effects of the Siberian volcanic eruptions that likely contributed to the extinction event, including an overall warming of the planet, release of toxic metals, and acidification of the oceans, which likely killed off a number of species quickly. Others died out as a result of the depleted oxygen levels in the water.

"This domino-like collapse of the inter-connected life-sustaining cycles and processes ultimately led to the observed catastrophic extent of mass extinction at the Permian-Triassic boundary," said marine biogeochemist Hana Jurikova of the University of St. Andrews in the UK, who carried out a 2020 study on the end-Permian extinction. Her study looked at fossil shells from brachiopods in what is now the Southern Alps in Italy.


How 5 of History’s Worst Pandemics Finally Ended - HISTORY

See why you don’t let an epidemic just rip through your country? “It’s no worse than Cholera!”

“As soon as I became acquainted with the situation and extent of this irruption (sic) of cholera, I suspected some contamination of the water”

“Tagged” with a (sic), irruption is used in Ornithology.

and the reason that The Great Plague of 1665 was the last in London, because in 1666 the Great Fire of London raised the city and consumed the fleas and rats!

They mean, in third-world countries lacking access to 19th-century science:

2/3 tsp. of bleach in five gallons of water.

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How do pandemics end? In different ways, but it’s never quick and never neat

O n 7 September 1854, in the middle of a raging cholera epidemic, the physician John Snow approached the board of guardians of St James’s parish for permission to remove the handle from a public water pump in Broad Street in London’s Soho. Snow observed that 61 victims of the cholera had recently drawn water from the pump and reasoned that contaminated water was the source of the epidemic. His request was granted and, even though it would take a further 30 years for the germ theory of cholera to become accepted, his action ended the epidemic.

As we adjust to another round of coronavirus restrictions, it would be nice to think that Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock have a similar endpoint in sight for Covid-19. Unfortunately, history suggests that epidemics rarely have such neat endings as the 1854 cholera epidemic. Quite the opposite: as the social historian of medicine Charles Rosenberg observed, most epidemics “drift towards closure”. It is 40 years since the identification of the first Aids cases, for instance, yet every year 1.7 million people are infected with HIV. Indeed, in the absence of a vaccine, the World Health Organization does not expect to call time on it before 2030.

However, while HIV continues to pose a biological threat, it does not inspire anything like the same fears as it did in the early 1980s when the Thatcher government launched its “Don’t Die of Ignorance” campaign, replete with scary images of falling tombstones. Indeed, from a psychological standpoint, we can say that the Aids pandemic ended with the development of antiretroviral drugs and the discovery that patients infected with HIV could live with the virus well into old age.

The Great Barrington declaration, advocating the controlled spread of coronavirus in younger age groups alongside the sheltering of the elderly, taps into a similar desire to banish the fear of Covid-19 and bring narrative closure to this pandemic. Implicit in the declaration signed by scientists at Harvard and other institutions is the idea that pandemics are as much social as biological phenomena and that if we were willing to accept higher levels of infection and death we would reach herd immunity quicker and return to normality sooner.

But other scientists, writing in the Lancet, say the Great Barrington strategy rests on a “dangerous fallacy”. There is no evidence for lasting “herd immunity” to the coronavirus following natural infection. Rather than ending the pandemic, they argue, uncontrolled transmission in younger people could merely result in recurrent epidemics, as was the case with numerous infectious diseases before the advent of vaccines.

‘Water! Water! Everywhere and not a Drop to Drink’: Another Punch cartoon, this one on the London outbreak of 1849. Photograph: Print Collector/Getty Images

It is no coincidence they have called their rival petition “the John Snow memorandum”. Snow’s decisive action in Soho may have ended the 1854 epidemic, but cholera returned in 1866 and 1892. It was only in 1893, when the first mass cholera vaccine trials got under way in India, that it became possible to envisage the rational scientific control of cholera and other diseases. The high point of these efforts came in 1980 with the eradication of smallpox, the first and still the only disease to be eliminated from the planet. However, these efforts had begun 200 years earlier with Edward Jenner’s discovery in 1796 that he could induce immunity against smallpox with a vaccine made from the related cowpox virus.

With more than 170 vaccines for Covid-19 in development, it is to be hoped we won’t have to wait that long this time. However, Professor Andrew Pollard, the head of the Oxford University vaccine trial, warns that we should not expect a jab in the near future. At an online seminar last week, Pollard said the earliest he thought a vaccine would be available was summer 2021 and then only for frontline health workers. The bottom line is that “we may need masks until July”, he said.

The other way the pandemic could be brought to a close is with a truly world-beating test-and-trace system. Once we can suppress the reproductive rate to below 1 and be confident of keeping it there, the case for social distancing dissolves. Sure, some local measures might be necessary from time to time, but there would no longer be a need for blanket restrictions in order to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed. Essentially, Covid-19 would become an endemic infection, like flu or the common cold, and fade into the background. This is what appears to have happened after the 1918, 1957 and 1968 influenza pandemics. In each case, up to a third of the world’s population was infected, but although the death tolls were high (50 million in the 1918-19 pandemic, about 1 million each in the 1957 and 1968 ones), within two years they were over, either because herd immunity was reached or the viruses lost their virulence.

The nightmare scenario is that Sars-CoV-2 does not fade away but returns again and again. This was the case with the 14th-century Black Death, which caused repeated European epidemics between 1347 and 1353. Something similar happened in 1889-90 when the “Russian influenza” spread from central Asia to Europe and North America. Although an English government report gave 1892 as the official end date of the pandemic, in truth the Russian flu never went away. Instead, it was responsible for recurrent waves of illness throughout the closing years of Queen Victoria’s reign.

Even when pandemics eventually reach a medical conclusion, however, history suggests they may have enduring cultural, economic and political effects.

The Black Death, for instance, is widely credited with fuelling the collapse of the feudal system and spurring an artistic obsession with images of the underworld. Similarly, the plague of Athens in the 5th century BC is said to have shattered Athenians’ faith in democracy and paved the way for the installation of a Spartan oligarchy known as the Thirty Tyrants. Even though the Spartans were later ejected, Athens never regained its confidence. Whether Covid-19 leads to a similar political reckoning for Boris Johnson’s government, only time will tell.

Mark Honigsbaum is a lecturer at City University of London and the author of The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria and Hubris


While some of the earliest pandemics faded by wiping out parts of the population, medical and public health initiatives were able to halt the spread of other diseases.

As human civilizations flourished, so did infectious disease. Large numbers of people living in close proximity to each other and to animals, often with poor sanitation and nutrition, provided fertile breeding grounds for disease. And new overseas trading routes spread the novel infections far and wide, creating the first global pandemics.

1. Plague of Justinian—No One Left to Die

Three of the deadliest pandemics in recorded history were caused by a single bacterium, Yersinia pestis, a fatal infection otherwise known as the plague.
The Plague of Justinian arrived in Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, in 541 CE. It was carried over the Mediterranean Sea from Egypt, a recently conquered land paying tribute to Emperor Justinian in grain. Plague-ridden fleas hitched a ride on the black rats that snacked on the grain.
The plague decimated Constantinople and spread like wildfire across Europe, Asia, North Africa and Arabia killing an estimated 30 to 50 million people, perhaps half of the world’s population.
“People had no real understanding of how to fight it other than trying to avoid sick people,” says Thomas Mockaitis, a history professor at DePaul University. “As to how the plague ended, the best guess is that the majority of people in a pandemic somehow survive, and those who survive have immunity.”

2. Black Death—The Invention of Quarantine

The plague never really went away, and when it returned 800 years later, it killed with reckless abandon. The Black Death, which hit Europe in 1347, claimed an astonishing 200 million lives in just four years.
As for how to stop the disease, people still had no scientific understanding of contagion, says Mockaitis, but they knew that it had something to do with proximity. That’s why forward-thinking officials in Venetian-controlled port city of Ragusa decided to keep newly arrived sailors in isolation until they could prove they weren’t sick.

At first, sailors were held on their ships for 30 days, which became known in Venetian law as a trentino. As time went on, the Venetians increased the forced isolation to 40 days or a quarantino, the origin of the word quarantine and the start of its practice in the Western world.
“That definitely had an effect,” says Mockaitis.

3. The Great Plague of London—Sealing Up the Sick

London never really caught a break after the Black Death. The plague resurfaced roughly every 20 years from 1348 to 1665—40 outbreaks in 300 years. And with each new plague epidemic, 20 percent of the men, women and children living in the British capital were killed.
By the early 1500s, England imposed the first laws to separate and isolate the sick. Homes stricken by plague were marked with a bale of hay strung to a pole outside. If you had infected family members, you had to carry a white pole when you went out in public. Cats and dogs were believed to carry the disease, so there was a wholesale massacre of hundreds of thousands of animals.
The Great Plague of 1665 was the last and one of the worst of the centuries-long outbreaks, killing 100,000 Londoners in just seven months. All public entertainment was banned and victims were forcibly shut into their homes to prevent the spread of the disease. Red crosses were painted on their doors along with a plea for forgiveness: “Lord have mercy upon us.”
As cruel as it was to shut up the sick in their homes and bury the dead in mass graves, it may have been the only way to bring the last great plague outbreak to an end.

4. Smallpox—A European Disease Ravages the New World

Smallpox was endemic to Europe, Asia and Arabia for centuries, a persistent menace that killed three out of ten people it infected and left the rest with pockmarked scars. But the death rate in the Old World paled in comparison to the devastation wrought on native populations in the New World when the smallpox virus arrived in the 15th century with the first European explorers.
The indigenous peoples of modern-day Mexico and the United States had zero natural immunity to smallpox and the virus cut them down by the tens of millions.
There hasn’t been a kill off in human history to match what happened in the Americas—90 to 95 percent of the indigenous population wiped out over a century,” says Mockaitis. “Mexico goes from 11 million people pre-conquest to one million.”
Centuries later, smallpox became the first virus epidemic to be ended by a vaccine. In the late 18th-century, a British doctor named Edward Jenner discovered that milkmaids infected with a milder virus called cowpox seemed immune to smallpox. Jenner famously inoculated his gardener’s 9-year-old son with cowpox and then exposed him to the smallpox virus with no ill effect.
“[T]he annihilation of the smallpox, the most dreadful scourge of the human species, must be the final result of this practice,” wrote Jenner in 1801.
And he was right. It took nearly two more centuries, but in 1980 the World Health Organization announced that smallpox had been completely eradicated from the face of the Earth.

Gonnorea nearly finish us in 1978

5. Cholera—A Victory for Public Health Research

In the early- to mid-19th century, cholera tore through England, killing tens of thousands. The prevailing scientific theory of the day said that the disease was spread by foul air known as a “miasma.” But a British doctor named John Snow suspected that the mysterious disease, which killed its victims within days of the first symptoms, lurked in London’s drinking water.
Snow acted like a scientific Sherlock Holmes, investigating hospital records and morgue reports to track the precise locations of deadly outbreaks. He created a geographic chart of cholera deaths over a 10-day period and found a cluster of 500 fatal infections surrounding the Broad Street pump, a popular city well for drinking water.
“As soon as I became acquainted with the situation and extent of this irruption (sic) of cholera, I suspected some contamination of the water of the much-frequented street-pump in Broad Street,” wrote Snow.
With dogged effort, Snow convinced local officials to remove the pump handle on the Broad Street drinking well, rendering it unusable, and like magic the infections dried up. Snow’s work didn’t cure cholera overnight, but it eventually led to a global effort to improve urban sanitation and protect drinking water from contamination.
While cholera has largely been eradicated in developed countries, it’s still a persistent killer in third-world countries lacking adequate sewage treatment and access to clean drinking water.


The Spanish Flu

The Spanish flu was an influenza pandemic that spread around the world between 1918 and 1919, according to the CDC. It was caused by an H1N1 virus, with an avian (bird) origin, though it&aposs unclear exactly where the virus originated. The CDC estimates that about 500 million people (or one-third of the world’s population) became infected with the virus. It ultimately caused least 50 million deaths worldwide with about 675,000 deaths happening in the U.S.

The 1918 flu was especially virulent, per the CDC. While much remains undocumented about the Spanish flu, the CDC notes that one well-documented effect was rapid and severe lung damage. "In 1918, victims of the pandemic virus experienced fluid-filled lungs, as well as severe pneumonia and lung tissue inflammation," according to the CDC.

Scientists also worked to replicate the 1918 flu virus, beginning in 2005, to evaluate the virus&apos pathogenicity, or its ability to cause disease and harm a host. The work, led by Terrence Tumpey, PhD, a microbiologist and chief of the Immunology and Pathogenesis Branch (IPB) of the CDC&aposs Influenza Division, showed that the 1918 influenza virus was a "uniquely deadly product of nature, evolution and the intermingling of people and animals," per the CDC, and may help with future possible pandemics.


Watch the video: Nikos Vertis - Ena Psema Official Videoclip (December 2021).