This is not the first time that the world is facing a deadly pandemic that destroys the lives and living of millions. We might have thought about how past centuries faced such big havoc without the advancements in healthcare that we have today. Here is a compilation of the major pandemic and epidemic outbreaks that we faced around the world in history.

1. The Black Death: 1346-1353 CE

The Black Death or the Bubonic plague was the most ravaging pandemic recorded in human history. It resulted in the death of an estimated 75 to 200 million people in Eurasia. It first appeared in Europe By 1348, it had reached Marseille, Paris, Germany and then Spain, England and Norway by 1349, and Eastern Europe by 1350. At that time, the Tartars left Kaffa and carried the plague away with them spreading it further to Russia and India.

In 1374 another Black death happened. During this period, Venice instituted various disease controls measures like isolating victims from healthy individuals and preventing ships with disease from docking at port. They followed trentino (30 days quarantine), then later quarantino (40 days). And in 15th-16th centuries doctors wore peculiar costumes to protect themselves from plague when they attended infected patients.

2. The Great Plague of London: 1665-1666 CE

Next major outbreaks of pneumonic plague occurred in England in 1665-66. It killed an estimated 100,000 people in 18 months. It was mostly transmitted through the bite of infected rat flea. As plague spread, they followed a system of 40 days quarantine. If any death occurred in a house, the people in those houses were incarcerated and their doors were painted with a cross. They also quarantined ships and gave permission to cruise only if it was free of plague. 

3. Small Pox : prehistoric period- 1980 CE

Small pox was a devastating disease which was endemic to Europe, Asia, and America for centuries, killing 3 out of every 10 people who got affected. And those who survived were usually left with scars which were sometimes severe. Centuries later, small pox became the first virus epidemic to be ended by a vaccine. One of the first methods of controlling the spread of small pox was the use of variolation. In the late 18th century British Doctor named Edward Jenner discovered that milk maids infected with a milder virus called cowpox seemed immune to small pox. By this knowledge he discovered vaccine which made a breakthrough for curing epidemic out breaks.

4. Cholera : 1817-1824 CE
First cholera pandemic emerged out of the Ganges Delta with an outbreak in Jersore, India in 1817, stemming from contaminated rice. The disease quickly spread throughout most of India, modern day Myanmar, and modern day Sri Lanka. By 1820-1822 it spread to countries like China and Japan through infected people on ships. The third pandemic stretching from 1852-1859 was the deadliest. It devastated Asia, Europe, North America and Africa. That year, a British physician named John Snow identified the source of disease- A public well which had contaminated water. Removal of the pump handle by officials resulted in immediate dropping of cases in that area. By 1923, Cholera cases had dissipated throughout much of the world except that in India it killed more than half million people in both 1918 and 1919.

5. Spanish flu: 1918-1920 CE

The Spanish flu in 1918 was the most severe influenza pandemic in recent history. It was caused by an H1N1 virus with genre of avian origin. It spread world wide during 1918-1919. It was first identified in a military personnel in United States. It is estimated that about 500 million people or one third of world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of death was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide. In an attempt to prevent the infection from spreading, many cities banned public assembly, closed their schools, isolated those infected and mandated the wearing of surgical face masks. 

6. Swine flu :2009-2010 CE

In April 2009, an influenza virus emerged that had never been seen before in humans. This Novel H1N1 flu virus was first detected in United States and spread quickly around the world. WHO declared the start of the first flu pandemic in 40 years. It estimates that between 15,1700 and 575,400 people died worldwide from the 2009 H1N1 virus infection during the first year the virus circulation . Soon after the outbreaks in U. S and Mexico, Indian government started screening people coming from affected countries at airports for swine flu symptoms. The first case in India was reported at Hyderabad airport, subsequently more confirmed cases were reported and rate of transmission increased. As of may 2010, more than 10,000 cases were confirmed and more than 1000 deaths were reported. 

These are some of the major outbreaks that we survived and overcame in the past centuries. In the light of these historical precautions, we should face the pandemics together by maintaining proper hygiene and by following the official instructions strictly. 

About author

Dr. Sharika Vipin

CRAV scholar under Dr. Ravishankar Pervaje Sushruta Ayurveda Hospital Puttur, D.K ,

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