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Most Deadly Epidemics In Human History

Every generation is faced with life altering challenges and no marks for guessing what we are facing right now. Covid-19 pandemic needs no introduction and it continues to devastate our lives in the worst possible manner. As of now, total Covid-19 deaths have reached a staggering 2.6 million globally. However, you will be surprised to know that there have been several other epidemics in the past that have killed a lot more people. To understand how epidemics pose a constant threat, here’s a quick look at some of the most deadly epidemics in human history.

Cocoliztli epidemics – Also referred to as the great pestilence, this occurred in the 16th century in present-day Mexico. People were affected by one or more unknown diseases that were collectively referred to as cocoliztli. The most common symptoms were high fever and bleeding. Till date, there is no conclusive evidence as to what caused the pandemic. Cocoliztli is estimated to have killed around 5-15 million people.

Third plague pandemic – This occurred in India and China during the mid-nineteenth century. It has been identified as a major bubonic plague pandemic. Bubonic plague usually occurs when humans come in contact with infected rat or fleas. Common symptoms of bubonic plague include swollen lymph nodes, chills, fever, weakness and internal bleeding. Third plague pandemic is estimated to have killed around 12-15 million people.

Plague of Justinian – This occurred during 541–549 AD and was caused by Yersinia pestis bacterium. It affected almost the entire Europe, Western Asia, Turkey and Egypt. The plague gets its name from Justinian I, who served as the Byzantine emperor in Constantinople from 527–565. Plague of Justinian is estimated to have killed 15–100 million people.

Spanish flu – Also referred to as 1918 influenza pandemic, Spanish flu was caused by H1N1 influenza A virus. It was one of the deadliest influenza pandemic in human history. It lasted for around two years and affected 500 million people. At that time, the number of infected were close to one-third of the world’s population. Spanish flu killed around 17–100 million people globally.

Black Death – This again was a bubonic plague pandemic, the worst ever in human history. It occurred in mid-fourteenth century in Afro-Eurasia region. This pandemic had deep impact on social, religious and economics aspects of Europe. Black Death is estimated to have killed 75–200 million people.

Whenever a new pandemic strikes, humanity rushes to find a cure, which can be medicines, vaccines, etc. Precaution can also be highly useful, as has already been proved with Covid-19 pandemic. Things like wearing masks and washing / sanitizing our hands can go a long way in protecting us from deadly microorganisms. Such preventive measures also help control the spread of the epidemic. In case of Covid-19, hopefully it will be over soon, as several vaccines have become available now.

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