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The 8 major pandemics that have marked history

Epidemics have existed since Antiquity; they did not wait for globalization or the coronavirus crisis to spread across the globe.

8.The plague of Athens (-430 to -426 BC)

The first documented pendemic in history, the plague of Athens is in fact probably due to thyphoid fever. Described by the historian Thucydides, himself affected by the disease, the disease manifests itself in intense fevers, diarrhea, rashes and conversions. Coming from Ethiopia, it then strikes Egypt and Libya, then arrives in Athens at the time of the siege of the city of Sparta, during the Peloponnesian War. It is estimated that a third of the city, or 200,000 inhabitants, will perish during this epidemic which will mark the beginning of the decline of Athens.

7. coronavirus (2019- Today)

The  Covid-19   pandemic is a pandemic of an emerging infectious disease, called the coronavirus disease or Covid-19, caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which appeared in Wuhan on November 17, 2019, in Hubei province (in China) before spreading around the world. So far the virus has killed 1,186,609 people

6.The Antonine plague (165-166)

Here again, this pandemic is not due to the plague but to smallpox. It takes its name from the Antonine dynasty, from which the Emperor Marc-Aurèle came, who then reigned over the Roman Empire. The pandemic began at the end of the year 165 in Mesopotamia, during the war against the Parthians and reached Rome in less than a year. It is estimated to have caused 10 million deaths between 166 and 189, considerably weakening the Roman population. Smallpox, caused by a virus and characterized by reddish scabs, diarrhea and vomiting, was declared eradicated in 1980.

5.The Black Death (1347-1352)

Painting depicting the effects of the plague in Basel, Switzerland, in 1349.

After having raged in China, the black plague pandemic arrived in 1346 in Central Asia, among Mongolian troops besieging the port of Caffa, on the Black Sea, held by Genoese merchants. The disease, manifested by horrible buboes, then spread to North Africa then to Italy and France. It is estimated that this epidemic, also nicknamed « the great plague », made between 25 and 40 million dead in Europe.

The expansion of the Black Death pandemic in Europe in the 14th century.  © Wikipedia
The expansion of the Black Death pandemic in Europe in the 14th century. © Wikipedia 

4.Cholera (1826-1832)

The Duke of Orleans visiting the sick at Hôtel-Dieu during the cholera epidemic in 1832 / Alfred Johannot © Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris
The Duke of Orleans visiting the sick at Hôtel-Dieu during the cholera epidemic in 1832 / Alfred Johannot © Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris 

Endemic for several centuries in the Ganges delta in India,  cholera  reached Russia in 1830, then Poland and Berlin. He landed in France in March 1832 via the port of Calais, then arrived in Paris. Expressed by sudden diarrhea and vomiting,  cholera  (the cause of which is not known at the time, the bacteria  Vibrio cholerae ) causes   rapid dehydration , sometimes leading to death within a few hours

3.Asian influenza (1956-1957)

Linked to the H2N2 influenza virus, the 1956 influenza was the second most deadly influenza pandemic after that of 1918. It caused two to three million deaths worldwide.

2.The Spanish flu (1918-1919)

Emergency hospital in Kansas during the Spanish flu. Flickr ,  CC BY-NC-SA

Caused by a particularly virulent type A H1N1 virus, the  Spanish flu  is actually of Asian origin. It then arrived in the United States, then crossed the Atlantic by the soldiers who had come to help France. If it is qualified as the   Spanish flu , it is because the country, not subject to censorship and war, reports the first alarming news. When she died in April 1919, the results were appalling. The Spanish flu has killed 20 to 30 million people in Europe and up to 50 million globally, sparing virtually no region of the globe.

1. AIDS (1981- today)

the AIDS virus came to light in 1981, when the Atlanta Epidemiological Agency, in the United States, warned of unusual cases of pneumocystosis (a rare pneumonia present in immunosuppressed patients). At the height of the epidemic, in the 2000s, two million people died from the virus each year. 36.9 million patients are now living with HIV, but antiretroviral treatment has significantly reduced mortality.

Par Jules Bercy

A writer a blogger passionate about science, history politics, the general knowledge of our planet and the Universe...

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