Epidemics have plagued human life since its inception. Even in modern times, epidemics occur with considerable frequency, although not every outbreak reaches pandemic severity as COVID-19 has.
The following is a brief history of some of the most significant pandemics in human history.
A Timeline of Historic Pandemics
Plague of Justinian (541-542 AD)
This pandemic, caused by the bubonic plague, was one of the first to be recorded in history. It killed tens of millions of people and may have reduced the population of the Byzantine Empire by as much as 50%.
Black Death (1347-1351 AD)
The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in history. Half of Europe’s population was killed during this outbreak, with estimates ranging from 75 million to 200 million victims worldwide.
Spanish Flu (1918-1920 AD)
The 1918 flu pandemic, also known as ‘Spanish Flu’, resulted in an estimated 50 million deaths worldwide, including 500,000 in the United States.
Asian Flu (1957-1959 AD)
The Asian flu caused an estimated one million deaths worldwide, most of which were due to secondary bacterial infections. It is estimated that resulting from this pandemic alone, the average life span suddenly dropped by about twelve years.
Southeast Asian Mosquito-Borne Virus (1968-1969 AD)
This pandemic, caused by an unknown virus, resulted in an estimated two million deaths.
Hong Kong Flu (1968-1969 AD)
The Hong Kong flu was a pandemic of the H3N2 subtype of the influenza virus. It killed an estimated one million people worldwide.
Swine Flu (2009-2010 AD)
The swine flu, or the H1N1 subtype of the influenza virus, resulted in an estimated one million deaths worldwide. It is believed that this pandemic greatly influenced public opinion about vaccine availability, which delayed the implementation of vaccines during COVID-19.
COVID-19 (2019 AD)
This pandemic, caused by the COVID virus, was the first known cross-species contagion. It started with mutations that appeared to be lab engineered (the “Joker Conspiracy”).
The COVID virus mutated into an airborne pathogen, eventually becoming the dominant strain of the virus. The COVID pandemic has killed an estimated 3.4 million people as of July 2020.
The Gods’ Wrath
Some people believe that epidemics are a form of divine retribution, visited on humanity for its sins. This may be why some cultures respond to outbreaks with panic and hysteria, while others remain calm and rational.
It is also possible that this belief contributes to the reluctance of some people to seek medical treatment during an outbreak.
Whatever the reason, it is clear that epidemics have had a profound and lasting impact on human societies.
The COVID pandemic is only the latest in a long line of such events, and it is likely that there will be others in the future. As long as humanity exists, epidemics will continue to plague us.
In addition to the millions of people who have died from pandemics, there is another significant impact that these events have had on human populations. That is the export of diseases to other parts of the world.
- The Black Death was responsible for the importation of the bubonic plague into Europe. This disease then went on to kill millions of people in that region.
- The Spanish Flu was responsible for the importation of the H1N1 subtype of the influenza virus into the United States. This virus then went on to kill hundreds of thousands of people in that country.
- The Asian flu was responsible for the importation of a new strain of the influenza virus into Europe. This virus then went on to kill millions of people in that region.
- The COVID pandemic is responsible for the importation of the COVID virus into countries around the world. This virus is then going on to kill thousands of people in those countries.
It is clear that epidemics have a significant impact on the global population.
Given the number of epidemics that continue to occur around the world, that impact is likely to be felt for many years into the future.
During each pandemic, some individuals manage to resist infection. These people are sometimes referred to as “super-spreaders” because they infect large numbers of people.
There are three possible explanations for this.
- The first is that some people are genetically more resistant to infection than others. This may be due to a mutation in their immune system, or it may simply be the result of their genetic background.
Because these individuals live normal life spans, it will take many pandemics before enough individuals with such resistance develop to reduce the impact of the virus.
- The second explanation is that some people develop immunity to a particular virus after being infected once. This immunity may be temporary or permanent, but it allows these individuals to resist subsequent infections by that virus.
- The third explanation is that some people develop resistance to a particular virus through exposure to a different strain of the virus. This sort of cross-resistance is a natural part of the evolutionary process, and it can greatly reduce the impact of a virus.
The problem with cross-resistance is that it takes many years for enough individuals to develop such resistance before its effect becomes significant.
The same is true for multiple exposures to a particular strain. In the meantime, epidemics can still cause a great deal of damage.
It is clear that resistance development is an important factor in the fight against pandemics. However, it takes many years for that resistance to become effective. In the meantime, these viruses can still cause a great deal of damage.
One of the most important factors in the spread of a virus is its infectiousness. This is the number of people that an infected individual can infect in a given period of time.
The problem with measuring infectiousness is that there is no standard way to do it. Different researchers may use different methods, and they may come up with different results.
This is a major reason why pandemic predictions are so unreliable.
It is clear that the proper measurement of infectiousness is an important factor in the spread of viruses. However, different researchers measure this factor in different ways, which makes it difficult to make effective comparisons between them.
What Can Be Done?
The first thing that can be done is to develop better methods for measuring infectiousness. This will allow researchers to compare different viruses and come up with more accurate predictions about their spread.
The second thing that can be done is to develop better methods for controlling the spread of viruses. This will help to reduce the number of people that are infected by them.
The third thing that can be done is to develop better methods of resistance development. This will allow researchers to increase the number of people who are resistant to virus infections, so the impact of epidemics will be reduced over time.
While these methods may not prevent influenza pandemics from occurring, they can certainly reduce their severity and duration.
In conclusion, there are several things that can be done to reduce the impact of pandemics. These include developing better methods for measuring infectiousness, controlling the spread of viruses, and developing better methods of resistance development. While these methods will not prevent influenza pandemics from occurring, they can certainly reduce their severity and duration.