Today's Thought: “A medicine cat has no time for doubt. Put your energy into today and stop worrying about the past.” -Erin Hunter, Rising Storm

Past Pandemics that created History ( List of Pandemics)

Barbara Mathilda

Today we bring to you a list of pandemics that the world suffered from before Covid-19. A pandemic is a global outbreak of an uncontainable spreading virus or bacteria. The spread of the disease is so contagious and rapid, that it becomes uncontrollable, until a solution is found, but by then we have lost a significant portion of the world population.

And until a disease hits a country, a vaccine is not invented. So all the epidemics, the world went through, have given rise to a new vaccine.  Necessity is the mother of all inventions. Our great scientists have very intelligently and diligently found solutions to all diseases.

Down the ages highly contagious diseases like Cholera, Bubonic Plague, Smallpox, and Influenza were some of the most brutal killers in human history. Travel and frequent human movements have been the main agent in spreading diseases rapidly across countries and worldwide. Some historical Pandemics have been very very horrific times, the world has seen.

List of Pandemics

HIV/AIDS Human Immunodeficiency Virus/ Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (2005-2012)

Deaths: 36 million
Initially, a person may not notice any symptoms or may have influenza. But with HIV/AIDS, the immunity drops to an extent that the body is unable to fight any infection. HIV/AIDS started in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1976, it killed more than 36 million people since 1981. About 31 to 35 million people are living with HIV today. The majority of these are in Sub-Saharan Africa. Today HIV is far more under control. Even infected people live normal lives through advanced treatment. Hence deaths from HIV/AIDS dropped to a significant number.

SARS –Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (2003)

SARS was seen in the early 2000s caused by the first coronavirus of SARS symptoms. In late 2017, Chinese scientists traced the virus through the cave-dwelling horseshoe bats in Yunnan. In November 2002, in southeastern China, doctors began to see the first cases of SARS or severe acute respiratory syndrome. Over the next several months, 8,096 people contracted the viral disease in 26 countries leading to 774 deaths and more. Most of these people had traveled to other parts of the world where SARS was spreading. Thankfully the outbreak is one on the list of pandemics that was short-lived by efficient globally-enforced medical practices.

FLU PANDEMIC- Influenza A (H3N2) virus (1968)

Deaths: 1 million

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A flu pandemic is sometimes known as “the Hong Kong Flu,” caused by the H3N2 virus, Influenza, which lasted for a year. The virus easily infected birds and mammals, so it spread even more widely. The first case was reported on July 13, 1968 in Hong Kong, and within 17 days the outbreaks of the virus were seen in Singapore and Vietnam. In another three months, it had spread to the Philippines, India, Australia, Europe, and the United States. It killed more than a million people, including 500,000 in Hong Kong itself.

ASIAN FLU- Influenza (1956-1958)

Deaths: 2 million
Asian Flu was a pandemic outbreak of Influenza A of the H2N2 subtype. This flu pandemic was the second major influenza outbreak. It started in China in 1956 and lasted for 2 years. Asian Flu virus traveled from China to Singapore, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It mostly affected young children and elderly people. Estimates for the number of deaths vary on the different sources, but according to the World Health Organization, there were approximately 2 million deaths, 69,800 of these in the US alone.

Spanish Flu-Influenza (1918)

Deaths: 20 -50 million
The 1918 Influenza also known as the Spanish Flu, was one of the deadliest pandemics. The Spanish flu was the first of two pandemics caused by the H1N1 influenza virus. It infected 500 million people around the world. It also spread to the remote Pacific islands and the Arctic region. The total number of deaths was about 20 –50 million people, over a third of the world’s population. Unlike the earlier Flu Viruses, this one had killed healthy young adults, while sparing children and those with weaker immune systems. One of the deadliest natural disasters in human history.

SIXTH CHOLERA (1910-1911)

Deaths: 800,000+
The Sixth Cholera Pandemic originated in India. It killed 800,000 people, then spread to the Middle East, North Africa, Eastern Europe, and Russia and lasted for one year. Having learned from the past, America quickly isolated the infected, and saved many lives, resulting in only 11 deaths. This Cholera broke out 27 times during the Hajj at Mecca during this Era. By 1923, although it was still constant in India, around the world the cases had been cut down significantly. Today, cholera is successfully treated with fluid replacement and antibiotics.

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Russian Flu –Influenza (1889-1890)

Deaths: 1 million
Originally the “Russian Flu” or “Asiatic Flu,” virus was thought to be Influenza A subtype H2N2. In May 1889, the first cases were found in three different distant locations, Bukhara in Central Asia (Turkestan), Athabasca in northwestern Canada, and Greenland. In the 19th century, specifically in urban areas, rapid growth in population was the cause of the spread of the flu, and the outbreak was worldwide. This was the first true epidemic of the era. Bacteriology and much was learned from this outbreak.

The Third Plague (1855)

Deaths: 12 million
The third and the last great plague pandemic was a deadly Bubonic plague, which started in Yunnan, China, in 1855. This dangerous plague spread to all countries and ultimately killed more than 12 million people, with about 10 million in India alone. By the end of the 19th century, countries like Hong Kong and Guangzhou, Cape Town, Guayaquil in Ecuador, San Francisco and Pensacola, Fla were badly affected and it killed about 12 million people worldwide. At that time scientists and doctors were developing a study for germ theory and new medicines, the results managed to stop the entry of a fourth Plague pandemic.

THIRD CHOLERA (1852–1860)

Deaths: 1 million
The third major outbreak of Cholera lasted for 8 years. This is known to be the deadliest of the seven cholera pandemics. Like the first and second Cholera pandemics, the Third Cholera Pandemic started in India. It spread through the Ganges River Delta, Asia, Europe, North America, and Africa. It took the lives of over a million people. British physician, John Snow tracked cases of cholera, while working in poor areas of London. His study identified that contaminated water was the means of transmission for the disease. Unfortunately, 23,000 people died in Great Britain too.

First Cholera (1817-1824)

Also known as the first Asiatic cholera, the first cholera pandemic started in the Ganges Delta near the city of Calcutta and quickly spread to most of India. It lasted about 8 years, spreading throughout Southeast Asia, China, the Middle East, eastern Africa, and the Mediterranean coast. The frequent movement of people and ships, through the Indian Ocean, from Africa to Indonesia, and to China and Japan, was the main agent of carrying the germs across countries. Some researchers believe that the very cold winter of 1823–1824, could have killed the bacteria in the water supplies, so the transmission of the bacteria ended.

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The Great Plague of London (1665)

Deaths: 100,000
The deadly Great Plague, lasting about a full year, was the last major epidemic plague to occur in England.  Rats and fleas carried the plague and helped in the devastating spread. Thousands had died and huge pits were dug to bury the bodies in mounds. Incidentally, in 1666 there was a Great Fire which destroyed much of central London and also helped to kill many of the black rats and fleas. The plague killed about 100,000 people in London. Later it was remembered as the “great plague.”

THE BLACK DEATH- Bubonic Plague (1346-1353)

Deaths: 75 – 200 million
Also known as the Great Bubonic Plague, The Black Death outbreak of the Plague spread through Europe, Africa, and Asia, and killed 75 to 200 million people. It was one of the most devastating pandemics recorded in human history lasting for about 7 years. Believed to have started in Asia, the Plague most likely spread through countries via the fleas living on the rats that so frequently lived on ships and ports, and so the bacteria flourished, devastating three continents and killing so many.

Novel Coronavirus Disease (2019-2020)

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization officially announced the COVID-19,  a pandemic with more than 669,310 cases and more than 30,982 deaths and counting. Most Countries are practicing Lock Down, to try to terminate the spread of the virus. Scientists and Doctors are working hard to develop a Vaccine, while in the hope we fight against the virus and practice all safe hygienic measures under the guidelines of WHO.

There is a who list of Pandemics the World has faced earlier. But for obvious where there is life, there is a possibility of an Epidemic. But all through the ages of Scientists, Researchers and Doctors have worked hard and found a SOLUTION to every Pandemic. And they will surely find one for COVID-19. Soon we will succeed in this WAR and come back to Normal Life again. 


Barbara Mathilda

I am Barbara Mathilda, a lady who walked the earth 60 years in grace. Born and educated in Kolkata, India. I have a very strong Convent School background and professional training in Computer Applications. Worked in very good organizations such as; World Bank, Projects of The American Embassy, Sequoia Capital, CF Italia, Odgers Berndtson and the like.

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