10th – Antonina Plague (165–180)
Surprisingly, and although we did not find out, this was one of the deadliest pandemics in history, as well as one of the oldest.
Antonina’s plague occurred in 165-180 and she was able to take the lives of some five million people in Europe.
Its spread began with the Romans, and ancient sources agreed that the outbreak first originated during the Roman siege of Seleucia, during the winter of 165-166.
Thereafter, the plague quickly spread to Roman Gaul and among the legions along the Rhine, spreading throughout the empire.
Over the next two decades, the Roman Empire saw an outbreak unlike anything they had experienced: At the height of the spread, around 2,000 deaths occurred each day.
Emperors Marco Aurélio and Lúcio Vero died during the period and many speculated that they were killed by this disease. Its symptoms include fever, rashes, and diarrhea.
9th – Leprosy (Middle Ages)
Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is a slow-growing bacterial disease, capable of causing irreversible damage to the patient’s nerves, skin, eyes, and airways.
People infected with the disease can have vision problems and muscle weakness, so other infected people will not even feel more pain due to damage to the nervous system. This can lead to partial loss of limbs, such as fingers, hands, feet, and even legs and arms.
Unfortunately, this disease has affected humans for thousands of years, but today there are reversible treatments and chemotherapies associated with antibiotics.
Leprosy, as it was previously called, was already a pandemic in Europe during the Middle Ages and the treatment of those suffering from the disease was inhumane: infected people considered themselves impure and had to wear certain clothes or a bell for their arrival. was pointed out.
Lepers were not allowed in many places and were called “undead.” The disease was associated with sin and they were legally sentenced to death by civic leaders, who confiscated all their belongings.
There are still around 200,000 cases of leprosy per year, and Brazil ranks second in the world in number of people infected, despite the fact that the disease can be treated with medication.
Some patients need continuous treatment for complications like blindness and paralysis.
8th – Black Death (1347–1351)
One of the most devastating pandemics in history was the Great Bubonic Plague (also known as “Black Death”) that occurred in the mid-1300s.
The deadly outbreak of bubonic plague began in China in the 1330s, and as the country was one of the most active trading countries, the disease quickly spread elsewhere.
In 1347, the plague reached Europe after several infected ships docked in Messina, a Sicilian port, in Italy. Just five years later, the plague had killed more than 20 million people in Europe.
The Black Death is believed to be caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, and the disease was spread mainly through the bite of infected fleas or the bite of rats.
The symptoms of the people affected were fever along with buboes (swelling of the lymph glands), which produced reddish spots on the skin that turned black, which is why people called it the Black Death.
7th – Smallpox (1520)
Smallpox has been a threat in Europe, Asia and Arabia for centuries: three out of ten infected people died of smallpox. Early European explorers brought the virus to the New World, where people were clearly not immune.
In Mexico and the United States, death rates were even higher and it became a major pandemic that, in 1520, devastated the Aztec Empire.
In North and South America, it took about 100 years for smallpox to destroy around 90% of indigenous peoples. In Mexico, the population fell from a million to 11 million before the European conquest. Finally, the deadly virus helped the Spanish to conquer the Aztecs and Incas, since their population was very weak.
Centuries later, smallpox was the first virus epidemic to be interrupted by the appearance of a vaccine. In 1980, the World Health Organization declared that smallpox had been eradicated worldwide.
The Great Plague in London was an epidemic that occurred in England and killed between 75,000 and 100,000 people: this means, practically, that a fifth of London’s population at that time was affected.
This disease was caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, as was the bubonic plague, but it occurred on a smaller scale than the previous “Black Death” that affected Europe in the middle of 1347. Today it is still called the “great plague”. Because it was one of the last to spread throughout Europe.
The Great Plague, or “Second Plague Pandemic” of 1665 caused leaders to shut down all public entertainment and isolate patients in their homes to help prevent the spread of the disease.
In total, London lost around 15% of its population, and although the city recorded approximately 69,000 deaths, the actual number is believed to be over 100,000.
5th – Third pandemic plague (1855-1960)
The third pandemic plague began in China in 1855, during the reign of the Qing dynasty, by Emperor Xianfeng, and it is the bubonic plague that ended up traveling through India and Hong Kong, killing at least 12 to 15 million people.
India suffered more than 10 million deaths and this was the third major outbreak of bubonic plague that hit European society.
The disease was initially spread by fleas during mining in Yunnan, China. This pandemic only reached a significant minimum in 1960, when 200 people died each year. At that time, the World Health Organization determined that the plague was no longer active.
4th – The Third Cholera Pandemic (1852-1860)
Between 1852 and 1860 there was the deadliest cholera outbreak – the third major outbreak of the disease. Like the first two pandemics, the third phase originated in India and spread to Asia, Europe, North America, and Africa. In 1854, the worst year, cholera killed 23,000 people in Britain and approximately 10,000 of those victims were from London.
During the third cholera pandemic, around a million people died, and deaths occurred in Russia, Chicago, Tokyo, Spain, Venezuela, and even Brazil.
Contaminated water is believed to be the cause of cholera: who identified this was British physician John Snow, who followed the cases in London and identified contaminated water as the cause of transmission of the disease. He located the water in the Broad Street pump and convinced local authorities to remove the handle from the pump.
Although the number of local cases decreased dramatically after their findings, the numbers continued to increase in other areas of the world for a few more years.
3rd – Russian flu (1889-1890)
Russian flu, also known as “Asian flu,” was a deadly flu pandemic that killed approximately one million people worldwide.
The outbreak began to spread in 1889 and was the largest influenza epidemic of the 19th century, and it was also the first actual epidemic to take place in the age of bacteriology. A science responsible for elucidating, studying and documenting everything about bacteria.
Initial cases have been reported in Bukhara in Central Asia (Turkestan), Athabasca in northwestern Canada, and Greenland. Within six months, the disease had already infected people in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Just four months later, the flu spread throughout the northern hemisphere.
Rapid population growth in urban areas around the world has helped create a pandemic. Approximately one to one and a half million people died of the disease.
2nd – Asian flu (1957–1958)
In the 20th century, the second-largest flu pandemic was the 1957 Asian flu, with an outbreak representing more than a million deaths.
At the start of the Asian flu pandemic, the virus spread throughout China and neighboring regions until months later, the flu reached the United States and spread throughout the United Kingdom.
Just three months after 1958, the United States had estimated that nearly 70,000 deaths were related to the Asian flu. Eventually, a vaccine was developed that helped contain the disease.
1st – Spanish flu (1918–1920)
The Spanish flu was the deadliest flu pandemic in human history and began in 1918, infecting approximately one third of the world population, or approximately 500 million people.
Although estimates vary, the Spanish flu is believed to have killed some 50 million people, far more than the First World War.
The first flu wave occurred in the spring of 1918 and was mild. The second wave was highly contagious and reached the entire world.
Its initial stage was in Europe, the United States and Asia before spreading around the world.
In addition to the rapid spread, flu victims died within hours or days after symptoms appeared.
Just to give you an idea, life expectancy in the United States decreased 12 years after the Spanish flu hit the population.
Not only schools, but also private homes and other buildings have been converted to makeshift hospitals due to overcrowding in medical facilities.
People had to go into imposed quarantines, and many companies closed to slow the spread of the deadly virus.