Epidemics/Pandemics – Notable


Table: Epidemics/Pandemics - Notable

1600 BCPlagues of Egypt

Epidemic Type: Multiple
Fatalities: ?

The hypothesis of the Plagues of Egypt is that they took place shortly after a series of massive eruptions of Thera (now known as Santorini) around 1600 BC, which took place 1,050 km (650 mi) to the northwest of Egypt and triggered enormous tsunamis. The theory is that the eruption sets off a chain of events resulting in the plagues and eventually leading to the killing of the first born.

Climatologists studying the ancient climate at the time have discovered a dramatic shift in the climate in the area occurred towards the end of Rameses the Second's reign. Analysis of the Nile River and rock around Egyptian ruins shows that ash and pumice came from the Santorini volcano, providing physical evidence that the ash fallout from the eruption at Santorini reached Egyptian shores.

The hypothesis considers a two-stage eruption over a time. Scientists place the first eruption around 1602 BC, when volcanic ash taints the Nile, causing the first plague and forming a catalyst for many of the subsequent plagues. Later in 1600 BC, a massive plume of a  Santorini eruption caused the ninth plague, the days of darkness.

430 - 427 BCPlague of Athens, Greece

Epidemic Type: Typhoid or Typhus
Fatalities: 1/3 of population (30,000)

The Plague of Athens was a devastating epidemic which hit the city-state of Athens in ancient Greece during the second year of the Peloponnesian War (430 BC), when an Athenian victory still seemed within reach. It is believed to have entered Athens through Piraeus, the city's port and sole source of food and supplies. The city-state of Sparta, and much of the eastern Mediterranean, was also struck by the disease.

Historians have long tried to identify the disease behind the Plague of Athens. The disease has traditionally been considered an outbreak of the bubonic plague in its many forms, but a recent DNA study on teeth  have led scholars to believe it was typhus.

165 - 180 ADAntonine Plague, Roman Empire

Epidemic Type: Smallpox
Fatalities: 5 million

The Antonine Plague, named after the Roman Emperor during this time Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus (161-180 AD). Also known as the Plague of Galen, based on the name of the physician who was the most prominent historian that chronicled the plague.

The plague was an ancient pandemic, either of smallpox or measles, brought back to the Roman Empire by troops returning from campaigns in the Near East. The disease first broke out in 165 AD, then again nine years later, according to the Roman historian Dio Cassius, and caused up to 2,000 deaths a day in Rome, one quarter of those infected.

251 - 270 ADPlague of Cyprian

Epidemic Type: Smallpox
Fatalities: ?

The plague of Cyprian was named after the writer and Christian bishop of Carthage, Saint Cyprian who witness and described the plague. The pandemic of smallpox broke out in 251 AD affecting the Roman Empire until 266 AD and killed the Roman Emperor Claudius II Gothicus in 270. The plague is also credited for the mass conversions to Christianity.

541 - 750 ADPlague of Justinian, Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire

Epidemic Type: Bubonic Plague
Fatalities: 100 million

The Justinian Plague began in 541 AD and was followed by frequent outbreaks over the next two hundred years that eventually killed over 100 million people and affected much of the Mediterranean basin--virtually all of the known world at that time.

There have been three major outbreaks of plague. The Plague of Justinian is the first known attack on record. After 750, major epidemic diseases did not appear again in Europe until the Black Death of the 14th century. The Third Pandemic hit China in the 1890s and devastated India, but was confined to limited outbreaks in the west. The plague has also returned at intervals with varying virulence and mortality until the 18th century.

1338 - 1351 AD

The Black Death, Europe and Central Asia

Epidemic Type: Bubonic Plague
Fatalities: 200 million

The Black Death (Great Plague) is thought to have started in China or central Asia. It then travelled along the Silk Road and reached the Crimea by 1346. From there, it was probably carried by Oriental rat fleas living on the black rats that were regular passengers on merchant ships. Spreading throughout the Mediterranean and Europe, the Black Death is estimated to have killed 30 to 60 percent of Europe's population.

The plague is attributed to Yersinia pestis, the bacterium which causes bubonic plague. The Oriental rat flea was responsible for the transmission of the infection by Yersinia pestis.

1500–1900 ADThe Americas

Epidemic Type: Smallpox, Measles, Typhoid, etc.
Fatalities: 90-95% of the native population (50-100 million)

The natives of the Americas suffered the introduction of several new diseases at once, so that a person who successfully resisted one disease might die from another. Multiple simultaneous infections (e.g., smallpox and typhus at the same time) or in close succession (e.g., smallpox in an individual who was still weak from a recent bout of typhus) are more deadly than just the sum of the individual diseases.

1860s - 1890sModern Plague

Epidemic Type: Bubonic Plague
Fatalities: 10 million

The third pandemic, the Modern Plague, began in China in the 1860s and appeared in Hong Kong by 1894. Over the next 20 years, it spread to port cities around the world by rats on steamships. During this last pandemic, scientists identified the causative agent as a bacterium and determined that plague is spread by infectious flea bites.

1918 - 19201918 Flu Pandemic

Epidemic Type: Influenza
Fatalities: 75 million

The “Spanish” influenza pandemic of 1918–1919, claimed more lives than World War I and remains debated where in the world the pandemic started. The 1918 flu pandemic struck in three waves across the globe, starting in the spring of that year, and is tied to a strain of H1N1 influenza ancestral to ones still virulent today. The outbreak killed even the young and healthy, turning their strong immune systems against them in a way that's unusual for flu.

1981 - PresentHIV/AIDS

Epidemic Type: HIV
Fatalities: 30 million

HIV spread to the United States and much of the rest of the world beginning around 1969. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is currently a pandemic, with infection rates as high as 25% in southern and eastern Africa.

1979 - PresentEbola

Epidemic Type: Ebola
Fatalities: 5000+ as of Nov 2014

Ebola viruses are found in several African countries. Ebola was first discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since then, outbreaks have appeared sporadically in Africa.

The natural reservoir host of Ebola virus remains unknown. However, on the basis of evidence and the nature of similar viruses, researchers believe that the virus is animal-borne and that bats are the most likely reservoir. Four of the five virus strains occur in an animal host native to Africa.

The 2014 Ebola epidemic is the largest in history, affecting multiple countries in West Africa. A small number of cases in Lagos and Port Harcourt, Nigeria, have been associated with a man from Liberia who traveled to Lagos and died from Ebola, but the virus does not appear to have been widely spread in Nigeria.