Humanity has time and time again survived deadly epidemics through history, but that isn’t to say that we’re invincible. Just because we have advanced technology and modern medical practices today doesn’t mean we’re safe from future diseases! Just like us, these plagues can evolve with the times — and that’s the scariest part. In fact, news broke out recently of sleeping diseases that are threatening to emerge from the melting ice. Who knows what plagues of the past will come back to wipe us all out?
To further inform (or scare) you of how serious the issue we have is, here are only some of the worst epidemics of history that mankind has ever seen.
Known simply as “The Plague,” this epidemic claimed 50 million lives from 1347 – 1351. Europe was hit the hardest, losing about a third of their total population in a span of five years. According to research gathered by Roman military historian Dr. Mike Ibeji, the plague arrived on European shores via two ships that docked on the Bristol trading port and which carried people who were disease-infested. The worst part was that the plague kept coming back until the 15th century, so there was no assurance that you’re safe just because you survived that period.
Plague of Justinian
Named after Emperor Justinian I under whose reign disease-bearing mice from Lower Egypt emerged and killed as much as 100 million people, this plague destroyed the empire’s defenses and devastated the agricultural sector as a result. This disease persisted for over two centuries. Pretty sure the Emperor wouldn’t have wanted to be remembered for all eternity this way, but the Middle Ages weren’t exactly forgiving.
1918 Spanish Flu
The Spanish influenza pandemic that only lasted a year (from 1917 – 1918) but brought upon 50 million deaths worldwide was recognized as the worst plague to ever hit humankind. It occurred during the last stages of World War I and affected mostly those aged between 20 to 40 years.
In 2014, American scientists tried to recreate the virus to prove if it was possible for an extinct disease to reemerge today. Other researches and scientists condemned their controversial experiment even though it was said to be for the purpose of creating better vaccinations and treatments against the disease. Still, we wouldn’t want our lives put at risk for that!
The Third Pandemic
It may not be the most creative of names, but it’s better than calling it by what it’s otherwise known as (“Modern Pandemic”). This disease began in Yunnan, China in the 1860s and spread to different countries via infested rodents that hid in ships. In the next 50 years, the plague took 15 million lives, most of whom were from India. Unlike most diseases, this one was bacterial so it eventually became treatable with antibiotics.
Great Plague of Milan
From 1629 to 1631, this Italian Plague had a series of outbreaks that affected close to 25% of the country’s total population. The Venetian army was the first to contract the disease from the infected German and French troops, and although measures were taken to control the spread of the plague, it still took nearly a million lives.
Emperor Justinian I wasn’t the only one who’s rolling on his grave for having a plague named after him. The Antonine Plague — what is now known as smallpox — rose during the reign of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus in 165 and persisted until 180. Around five million people suffered and died, among which were emperors.
Avian influenza, which had once scared us years ago (and caused us to steer clear of eating chicken), is still prevalent today. While the virus normally occurs among wild fowls, they can easily infect domesticated poultry. In a 2015 article published by The Guardian, the US Department of Agriculture claimed the outbreak “led to the death of more than 48 million birds” across America. It doesn’t necessarily mean that high a number had contracted the epidemic; it’s just that even if only one hen turned up positive, the entire chicken farm population has to be “destroyed” to control the spread.
First reported in the 1960s, the HIV/AIDS epidemic is a plague we’re still battling today. As of 2015, 36.7 million people worldwide are living with the disease, 1.8 million of which are children below 15 years old. A whopping 35 million have died since the spread of the epidemic mostly due to lack of proper sex education and poor access to medical treatment. Sadly, HIV/AIDS are still being stigmatized as a disease well-deserved by “sex-crazed individuals” and the LGBT+ community. But there are movements being made to raise global awareness for and alleviate the suffering of victims.
Do you think we have a new disease threatening to wipe us out in the near future? Share us your thoughts below!