The coronavirus pandemic has changed life for billions of people globally. Millions of jobs have disappeared, food shortages are seemingly everywhere, and life involves a lot more time at home.
Will we get through these circumstances? If the lessons learned from the worst pandemics in world history are a guide, we’ll return to normal one day.
The flu virus circulated worldwide for three years before things got under control, eventually killing about 50 million. Over 500 million people contracted this illness, with about half of the deaths happening during the first six months. It was the first of its kind that could hurt healthier adults more than those with weaker immune systems.
The ten years in the 14th century when the Bubonic Plague ran rampant throughout Europe caused up to 60% of the continent’s population to die. Experts believe that the fleas on rats in cargo vessels caused the disease to move from Asia, creating the perfect breeding ground in the crowded cities.
This pandemic was another one caused by the Bubonic Plague. It likely killed half of Europe’s population in the 6th century. It afflicted the port cities in the Mediterranean and the Byzantine Empire the most, but it only lasted a year. At its height, 5,000 people were dying daily from this disease.
This 2nd century pandemic was likely measles or smallpox, but no one knows what it was for sure. It would kill at least five million people before it was over. The disease came back with Roman soldiers returning from the Mesopotamia region, decimating the Empire’s defenses.
5. HIV Pandemic
HIV (and AIDS) were first identified in 1976 in Africa. Since then, it became a global pandemic that killed over 36 million people. About the same number of people are currently living with this virus. About 5% of the sub-Saharan population is infected, making it the hotbed of activity. Treatments have improved to drop the death rate, but it is still a deadly disease to get.