5 Terrible Disease Outbreaks From Around the World

We live a pretty good life in 2015 and it’s sometimes hard to remember how terrible diseases could wipe out millions of people. With the controversy surrounding vaccines, it’s easy to forget about the days when the creators of vaccines were considered hero’s.

Some things shown may be considered disturbing to some people. 

  1. Yellow Fever Philadelphia 1793

Yellow Fever 1793
Painting showing children with Yellow Fever in 1793

5,000+ people died in Philadelphia from August 1 – November 9, 1793. This made it one of the worst epidemics in USA history. By the end of September about 20,000 people fled the city and the mortality rate peaked in October before the frost killed off the mosquitoes that carried the disease. This brought an end to the epidemic by November. Dr’s attempted a number of treatments however they weren’t sure of the origin of the fever or the fact that it was carried by the mosquitoes. This was not officially realized until the late nineteenth century.

  1. Spanish Flu Pandemic 1918

Spanish flu sufferers
Spanish flu sufferers

The Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918-1919 has been thought to be the most devastating epidemic in world history. It killed 20-40 million people, more than WW1 and killed more people in a single year than 4 years of the Black Death. The Spanish Flu was considered a global disaster. The flu was surprisingly deadly for people 20-40 years old, this was surprising considering that the flu is generally most dangerous to the elderly and young children. About 675,000 Americans alone died of the Spanish flu, 10 times as many as WW1.

Half of the US soldiers in Europe fell to the flu instead of the enemy. The Spanish flu actually lowered life expectancy by 10 years. It spread by human carriers along trade routes, outbreaks went through North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Brazil, and the South Pacific. In India mortality rates were 50 deaths per 1,000 people which was extremely high. Some thought it was biological warfare used by Germans and other’s though it was due to the horrible conditions of being trapped in trenches and the use of mustard gas.

Although it is thought to have originated in China as a rare genetic shift of the regular influenza virus, its origins are still not precisely known. The name Spanish Flu, came from the early affliction and high mortality rate in Spain where it allegedly killed 8 million people.

  1. Polio Epidemic 1952

Polio sufferers in iron lung
Polio sufferers in iron lung

The United States, 1952 Polio epidemic was the worst outbreak in the nation’s history. With 58,000 cases reported that year 3,145 people died and 21,269 people were left with mild to disabling paralysis.

Dr. Jonas Salk became a hero when he developed the safe and effective polio virus vaccine in 1955 with the support of March of Dimes. 2 years before the vaccine was available widely, the average number of polio cases were more than 45,000 by 1962 it had dropped to 910.

Polio survivors helped advanced the modern disability rights movement. The World Health Organization estimates that there are 10-20 million survivors in the world.

  1. Plague of Athens 430 BC

Painting depicting sufferers of the Plague of Athens
Painting depicting sufferers of the Plague of Athens

In 430 BC the plague that struck the city of Athens which was under siege by Sparta during the Peloponnesian War. Over the next 3 years, most of the population was infected and as many as 75,000 to 100,000 people, which was 25% of the city’s population, died. General and historian Thucydides detailed the plague for future generations so that they could identify it in case of another outbreak. Despite his description, scholars still argue about the identification of the disease. There are two diagnoses that have dominated literature on the plague, smallpox and typhus.

  1. Plague of Justinian 541-542

Painting depicting the plague of Justinian
Painting depicting the plague of Justinian

The plague of Justinian, named after Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian 1, was a pandemic that affected the Eastern Roman Empire, it’s considered one greatest plagues in history. The plague resulted around 25-50 million deaths. According to recent research it has been confirmed to come from an organism that is also responsible for the Bubonic plague. Genetic studies point to China as the primary source of the contagion. The plague has also returned periodically until the 8th century and has had a major effect on the course of European history.

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One thought on “5 Terrible Disease Outbreaks From Around the World

  • January 10, 2016 at 12:47 am
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    Spanish flue?

    Didn’t bother reading the rest…

    Reply

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