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Pandemics Down The Ages: Starting From Typhoid In Ancient Greece To Covid-19

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, others have wreaked havoc across the world since ancient times

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Pandemics Down The Ages: Starting From Typhoid In Ancient Greece To Covid-19
Municipal workers wearing protective outfits spray chemicals outside while disinfecting an area of the Romanian capital Bucharest, Romania, in wake of the coronavirus pandemic
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Pandemics Down The Ages: Starting From Typhoid In Ancient Greece To Covid-19
outlookindia.com
2020-04-02T21:48:41+05:30

As civilizations spread, so did pandemics, some of which decimated millions of lives. From a strain of typhoid which devasted Ancient Greece to the Covid-19 virus ravaging the world today, here’s a list of some deadly pandemics down the ages.

Suspected Typhoid: Ancient Greece, 430 BC

This is probably the earliest suspected pandemic, or a disease that has spread across several continents. Originating near Libya, it passed through modern-day Libya, Ethiopia and Egypt to Athens, which was then under siege by the Spartans.

Symptoms: Fever, thirst, bloody throat and tongue, red skin and lesions.

Impact: As many as 75,000 to 100,000 people, or 25% of the city's population, perished, and the city eventually fell to the Spartans.

Antonine Plague/Plague of Dalen: Roman Empire, 165 AD and again in 180 AD

Although details are sketchy, historians argue that the Huns, nomadic warriors from Central Asia who terrorized much of Europe and the Roman Empire in the 4th and 5th centuries AD, infected Germans, who in turn infected Romans.

Symptoms: fever, sore throat, diarrhoea and, if the patient survived that, pus-filled lesions.

Impact: The disease broke out again almost a decade later, killing some 2,000 people each day in Rome. The total death toll is estimated at 5 million across the Roman empire, and it’s victims included a Roman Emperor and a significant section of the Roman Army.

Cyprian Plague: Roman Empire, 250-262 AD

Named after the Christian bishop of Carthage, (Tunisia) who described it as the end of the world, this plague started in Ethiopia and passed through north Africa, then onto Egypt and northward towards Rome. Panicked city dwellers fled to the villages, further spreading the infection.

Symptoms: diarrhea, vomiting, throat ulcers, fever, deafness, blindness, paralysis of lower limbs swollen throats and gangrenous hands and feet.

Impact: The next three centuries saw recurring outbreaks, including in Britain in 444 AD. At its peak, there were 5000 deaths per day in Rome alone.

Justinian Plague: Egypt/North Africa. Mediterranean region, 541-542 AD

First appearing in Egypt, this was the first large pandemic of Bubonic plague. Named after Roman Emperor Justinian, it spread through Palestine and the Byzantine Empire and then across the Mediterranean region

Symptoms: swollen lymph nodes in the groin, armpit or neck, fever, chills, headache, fatigue and muscle aches. Extreme weakness, abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. Blackening and death of tissue (gangrene) in extremities like fingers, toes and nose.

Impact: Carried by rats and spread by fleas, the plague recurred sporadically over the next two centuries, killing an estimated 50 million people, or over a quarter of the world’s population.

Black Death/Bubonic plague: Central and continental Europe, UK, 1346-53:

This second-largest outbreak of the bubonic plague is said to have come from Asia, entering Europe through caravans and through a port in Sicily in 1347 A.D.where boatloads of plague-infected people landed. It spread rapidly across Europe, leaving dead bodies rotting on city streets.

Symptoms: swollen lymph nodes in the groin, armpit or neck, fever, chills, headache, fatigue and muscle aches. Extreme weakness, abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. Blackening and death of tissue (gangrene) in extremities like fingers, toes and nose (hence the name Black death) .

Impact: It killed between 75 to 200 million people across Eurasia and Europe, and forced England and France to declare a truce to their war. It also led to the collapse of the British Feudal system, while the fierce Vikings from Greenland stopped their raids across Europe. In a rerun, bubonic plague killed at least 65,000 people, or almost of 20 percent of London’s population between 1346 and 1353. It also led the to slaughter of thousands of cats and dogs believed to be a possible cause. Half of Paris’ population of 100,000 perished.

First Cholera Pandemic: British Empire, Japan, Germany, America, 1817-1824:

The first of seven cholera pandemics over the next 150 years, this infection of the small intestine is believed to have started near Calcutta, India. Though cholera, spread from infected feces, existed in India down the ages, this time it spread to British soldiers, who took it to far reaches of the Empire. It also spread to Spain, Africa, Indonesia, China, Japan, Italy, Germany and America.

Symptoms: Copious, smelly diarrhea, vomiting, wrinkled skin, low blood pressure, dry mouth, rapid heart rate.

Impact: Total death estimates range from 2 million to 8 million. Despite a vaccine being created in 1885, the pandemics continued.

The Third Plague Pandemic: China, India, Hong Kong, 1855

Spread by fleas in China during a mining boom in Yunnan Province, it moved swiftly to India and also Hong Kong.

Symptoms: swollen lymph nodes in the groin, armpit or neck, fever, chills, headache, fatigue and muscle aches. Extreme weakness, abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. Blackening and death of tissue (gangrene) in extremities like fingers, toes and nose

Impact: It claimed over 15 million victims, mostly in India, and was a factor behind two rebellions in China. The pandemic was officially active till 1960, when the certified cases went below 200 deaths.

Russian Flu: Central Asia, Russia, Europe Africa and US, 1889

The first significant flu pandemic started in Siberia and Kazakhstan, spread to Moscow, and then into Finland and Poland, from where it spread to the rest of Europe and eventually Africa and North America.

Symptoms: fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, congestion, runny nose, headaches and fatigue.

Impact:By the end of 1890, 360,000 had died across the world. .

Spanish Flu: Worldwide: 1918-1919

First observed in Europe, and named after an outbreak Madrid, it spread quickly around the world. The most severe flu pandemic in modern history, it was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin, leading it to be also called Bird flu.

Symptoms: fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, congestion, runny nose, headaches and fatigue.

Impact: An estimated 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide, about 675,000 of them in the US. It faded in the summer of 1919 when most of the infected had either developed immunities or died.

Asian Flu: China, Asia, US, UK, 1957

Reportedly originated in Hong Kong, it spreading through China and then into the US and then England, where14,000 people died over six months, A second wave came a year later.

Symptoms: fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, congestion, runny nose, headaches and fatigue.

Impact: Caused an estimated total of about 1.1 million deaths globally, with 116,000 deaths in the US alone. A vaccine was finally developed and helped contain the pandemic

HIV/AIDS: Global, 1981

First identified in 1981, AIDS destroys a person’s immune system, thus causing death by diseases which the body can normally defend against. Believed to have developed from a west African chimpanzee virus in the 1920s, the highly infectious disease was first observed in American gay communities in the late 1970s and quickly spread across the world, mostly through blood and genital fluids.

Symptoms: fever, headache, and enlarged lymph nodes upon infection. When symptoms subside, carriers become highly infectious.

Impact: Over 35 million deaths so far, and though some treatments slow down the spread of the disease, a cure remains elusive. Treatments have been developed to slow the progress of the disease, but 35 million people worldwide have died of AIDS since its discovery, and a cure is yet to be found.

SARS: China/Asia, 2003

First identified in 2003 after several months of cases, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome is believed to have possibly started with bats, spread to cats and then to humans in China, followed by 26 other countries, infecting 8,096 people through respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezes. At least 774 died.

Symptoms: Respiratory problems, dry cough, fever and head and body aches.

Impact: Massive quarantine efforts contained the virus, and China was criticized for trying to suppress information about the virus at the beginning of the outbreak. It also worked as a wake-up call to improve outbreak responses worldwide, helping keep diseases like H1N1, Ebola and Zika under control.

Covid-19: Worldwide

The novel coronavirus, from the family of viruses that includes the common flu and SARS, first originated in Wuhan China, and spread rapidly across the world.Though the first reported case in China came in November 2019, the World Health Organization formally declared it a pandemic on March 11, 2020, after it had spread to 114 countries and continued to grow exponentially.

Symptoms: Respiratory problems, fever and cough, pneumonia and bodyache. Spread through droplets from sneezes.

Impact: 164 countries affected, extreme social and economic impact still being felt, with most of the world in lockdown or enforced quarantine. One again, China has been accused of not alerting the international health organisations in time. At least 48,576 deaths reported across the world as of noon April 2. No vaccine yet.

 

 


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