Humanity has experienced multiple major epidemics throughout its existence. Many of those deadly diseases have since been successfully eradicated thanks to advances in medical science. However, some of them remain active and claim many lives every year.
National Geographic presents five of the deadliest epidemics in recorded history:
Black Death or the Bubonic Plague (1347-1351)
The Bubonic Plague was one of the deadliest epidemics in mankind’s history – it is estimated that 75 to 200 million people were killed by the plague. Spreading in the Mediterranean region and Europe, the plague had effectively wiped out 30-60% of Europe’s entire population.
Because of the plague, the world’s human population had declined from approximately 450 million to 350-375 million in the 14th century. Some historians are confident the pandemic had originated in China or Central Asia in 1320-1333. The epidemic had then been carried over to Crimea with traders, troops and caravans. From there, the Bubonic Plague had made its way to Western Europe and Northern Africa.
Great Plague of London (1665-1666)
The Great Plague of London was the last major epidemic of the Bubonic Plague in England. 75 – 100 thousand people had lost their lives to it. Because of this epidemic, the population of London had declined by 20%. It was also the last time this disease had appeared in Europe on such a large scale.
Plague of Justinian (541-542)
The Plague of Justinian was a pandemic of the Bubonic Plague that spread in the Byzantine Empire in 541-542. According to historians of the 6th century, this epidemic swept across nearly the whole world, in Asia, Northern Africa, Arabia and Europe all the way to the north of Denmark and west of Ireland. Modern historians call the plague after the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I, who was emperor at the time of the initial outbreak. It is believed the plague had killed nearly 40% of the population of Constantinople and approximately the quarter of the population of eastern Mediterranean lands.
Third Pandemic (1855-1950)
The Third Pandemic is the name of a major outbreak of the Bubonic Plague that began in the Yunnan province of China in 1855. This epidemic had swept across the Asian continent, killing more than 12 million people in India and China alone. According to information from the World Health Organization, the pandemic remained active up until 1959, when the number of victims reduced to less than 200 annually.
HIV/AIDS is a pandemic mankind has been combating since 1981, when the first case of this terrible disease appeared in Cameroon. Although medical science has made major steps forward since then, it is still unknown when the first universal cure may appear. Since the first appearance of HIV/AIDS in the world, more than 30 million people have died from complications caused by this disease.
The Ebola Virus is a modern-day infection. The number of victims of this terrible virus has already exceeded more than 11 thousand people. Scientists cannot say when this virus will be finally eradicated and how many lives it may claim until then. The Ebola Virus was first discovered in 1976.
The Ebola Virus cannot be treated and there is currently no cure from it. Nevertheless, scientists are doing their very best in order to find a way to combat it. The Ebola Virus has forced medicine around the world to develop as fast as the virus itself in hopes of finding a way to make the world free of pathogens.