The whole world is preparing for the potential pandemic of Swine Flu (now called H1N1 Influenza). Still, as we see people in surgical masks on the news this virus is still in the early stages. Hopefully a vaccine will come out soon and Swine Flu will be forgotten in a couple of years. I’m buying a case of hand sanitizer. Either way, its got a long way to go to catch up to our 10 Worst Pandemics in history.
10. Leprosy (600 BC – today):
Between 2 and 3 million are permanently disabled worldwide due to Leprosy. Leprosy is a bacterial infection that affects the skin, peripheral nerves in the hands and feet, and mucous membranes of the nose, throat, and eyes. Destruction of the nerve endings of those areas causes a loss in sensation. Deformities that are typically associated with the disease, which led to colonies and isolation of those effected with the disease.
9. Typhus (430 BC? – today):
Killed 3 million people between 1918 and 1922 alone. Group of infectious diseases transmitted by lice or fleas. Its highly contagious, and classically effected those in tight, unclean quarters like prisons or concentration camps. Today, typhus is easily cured with antibiotics.
8. Cholera (1817 – today):
8 pandemics; hundreds of thousands killed worldwide. Cholera is spread by eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated with cholera bacteria. Contamination usually occurs when human feces from a person who has the disease seeps into a community water supply. The disease is characterized by a watery diarrhea. Its pretty much been eliminated in the United States but continues to be a problem in 3rd world countries.
7. Tuberculosis (1882 – today):
Annually, 8 million people become ill with tuberculosis, and 2 million people die from the disease worldwide. Tuberculosis (TB) is a potentially fatal contagious disease that can affect almost any part of the body but is mainly an infection of the lungs. It used to be called consumption.
6. Measles (160 AD ? – today):
Estimated to have killed about 200 million people over the last 150 years. Measles is a very contagious infection that causes a rash all over the body. It is also called rubeola or red measles. It is very rare in the United States because most children get the vaccine as part of their regular childhood shots.
5. AIDS (1981 – today):
Over 2 million people worldwide die each year from AIDS and over 32 million people are currently living with HIV. Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is an infectious disease caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It was first recognized in the United States in 1981. AIDS is the advanced form of infection with the HIV virus. It has caused one of the biggest health concerns of the last 100 years. HIV is transmitted through direct contact of a mucous membrane or the bloodstream with a bodily fluid containing HIV, such as blood, semen, vaginal fluid, preseminal fluid, and breast milk.
4. Malaria (1600 – today):
Kills about 2 million people per year. Malaria is a serious disease that causes a high fever and chills. You can get it from a bite by an infected mosquito. Malaria is rare in the United States, much is a major problem in Africa, South America, Central America and Central Asia. There is no vaccine, but the drugs used to treat malaria are often too expensive for people in the poor and most effected countries.
3. Black Death (bubonic plague) (1340 – 1771):
Killed 75 million people worldwide. Killing off approximately 20% of the world’s population, the Black death did worldwide damage. It is commonly believed to be an outbreak of bubonic plague that was pandemic throughout Europe and much of Asia in the 14th century. The disease was probably spread through rats, but most religious nutcases felt it was better to kill off non-Christian cultural groups believed to be responsible.
2. Spanish Flu (1918 – 1919):
Killed 50 to 100 million people worldwide in less than 2 years. The 1918 flu pandemic (commonly referred to as the Spanish flu) was an flue that spread all over the world. It was caused by an strong and deadly Influenza A virus strain of subtype H1N1 – similar to today’s Swine Flu.
1. Smallpox (430 BC? – 1979):
Killed more than 300 million people worldwide in the 20th century alone, and most of the native inhabitants of the Americas. Throughout history, smallpox has been a greatly feared disease, and the cause of great suffering and massive numbers of deaths. In the early 1980’s, the World Health Organization announced that vaccination had led to the complete eradication of the virus, with the exception of samples of stored virus in two laboratories (I’d imagine the beginning of some Tom Clancy book happens in one of those labs).