Human civilization has witnessed several pandemics since its inception. The different killer pandemics in history mostly originated from animals and contaminated humans leading to massive death.
Science proved to be helpless in front of mother nature. As a result, during most of the pandemics, millions of people died. Lucky are those who got cured!
Scientifically speaking, with human civilization’s growth, many people started flocking in one place, even with pet animals. Not all areas had proper sanitation and drainage systems. As a result, localities became the breeding ground of the diseases as well.
Today, we will see the world’s Top 10 Worst Pandemics in History that left very few human beings alive and millions of people worldwide to death.
Let’s have a look:
Table of Contents
- 1. Antonine Plague (165)
- 2. Plague of the Justinian (541-542)
- 3. Bubonic plague (1330-1353)
- 4. Third Cholera Pandemic (1846-1860)
- 5. Russian Flu (1889-1890)
- 6. 6th cholera pandemic (1899-1923)
- 7. The Spanish flu (1918)
- 8. Asian flu (1957-1958)
- 9. Hong Kong Flu (1968)
- 10. HIV/AIDS (1980-81)
- 11. COVID-19
1. Antonine Plague (165)
The Antonine Plague of 165 to 180 AD was an ancient pandemic brought to the Roman Empire by troops returning from campaigns in the Near East. Scholars have suspected it of having been either smallpox or measles, but the real cause remains undetermined.
The disease broke out again nine years later, causing up to 2,000 deaths a day in Rome, one-quarter of those who were affected, giving the disease a mortality rate of about 25%
- Casualties: 5 million people.
- Symptoms: Swollen and sore throat and fever.
- Countries affected: Italy, Egypt, Greece, and Asia minor.
- Duration: 15 years (165 – 180)
Below is a documentary on surviving a pandemic in ancient Rome:
2. Plague of the Justinian (541-542)
This disastrous pandemic started from 541 to 542 AD. But that was not the end as there was recurrence till 750 AD. The Byzantine Empire (which is currently the Eastern Roman), precisely it’s Capital Constantinople, along with Sassanian and other port cities all around the Mediterranean Sea.
Based on the DNA tests done later of bones from the graves, it was found that this plague was of Bubonic kind, which is Yersinia Pestis. However, the pneumonic and septicemic type was also seen.
- Casualties: 25-50 million people.
- Symptoms: Chills, fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, and gangrene.
- Countries affected: The empire of emperor Justinian I of Byzantine.
- Duration: 2 years (541 – 542)
Below you can watch a documentary about the Justinian Plague:
3. Bubonic plague (1330-1353)
The bubonic plague started its devastating pandemic in the year 1330 till 1353. This is one of the three types of epidemics that started from Yersinia Pestis. Generally, after getting affected, a person used to show flu-like symptoms after 7days.
The most popular theory behind the end of this Bubonic Theory is quarantine. People used to stay at home and not go out to keep themselves safe. People who used to live in a congested area and couldn’t afford to stay at home suffered the most.
- Casualties: 75 to 200 million people.
- Symptoms: Vomiting, black boils, chills, fever, diarrhea, along with pain.
- Countries affected: Mostly, Europe and Asia
- Duration: 23 years (1330 – 1353)
Watch below a documentary about the great plague:
4. Third Cholera Pandemic (1846-1860)
Originating from India, the third cholera outbreak was the third major pandemic that ruined many lives in the nineteenth century.
Hydration was the primary way of treatment for cholera during this time. Though antibiotics were used, they were not used in mild cases. Sometimes intravenous fluids were injected to keep the patients hydrated.
- Casualties: 1 million people worldwide.
- Symptoms: Vomiting, diarrhea, cold skin, and muscle cramps.
- Countries affected: Asia, Europe, Africa, and North America.
- Duration: 14 years (1846-1860)
5. Russian Flu (1889-1890)
A flu pandemic is also known as the Russian flu as this originated in Russia and spread to the entire world because of fast population growth in the 19th century. This pandemic arrived in Europe during November or December in 1889 from the eastern countries.
This devastating pandemic took only four months to spread throughout the world. The data was found from 172 cities in Europe and America.
- Casualties: 1 million people.
- Symptoms: Fever, running cold, and a headache was the symptoms seen in the people affected.
- Countries affected: Turkestan, Canada, Greenland.
- Duration: 2 years (1889 – 1890)
6. 6th cholera pandemic (1899-1923)
This deadly cholera pandemic was one of the fatal top pandemics in the world. The Pandemic spread through the Haridwar Kumbh Mela and gradually spread to the European countries via Punjab (a province of the British Empire).
- Casualties: Almost 1 million people
- Symptoms: Vomiting, diarrhea, muscle cramps, and chills.
- Countries affected: Originated in India. It later spread to Africa, Asia, and America.
- Duration: 24 years (1899 – 1923)
7. The Spanish flu (1918)
This deadly flu killed almost 25 million people in just 25 weeks and roughly 50-100 million people in total. Five hundred people got contamination with this killer disease.
Isn’t it scary? The influenza virus that had an avian origin was the reason for this outbreak of this pandemic.
- Casualties: 50 million people
- Symptoms: Normal flu-like signs were common.
- Countries affected: Originated in China. Still, the outbreak happened in Madrid in 1918, and hence the name Spanish Flu.
- Duration: 1 year (1918)
Watch this video to find out why the Spanish flu killer over 50 million people worldwide.
8. Asian flu (1957-1958)
This deadly pandemic occurred by the H2N2 subtype of the influenza A virus that originated in China. This virus was borne with the genetic mutation of the avian and human influenza virus.
Like the recent coronavirus, this strain of the virus was also a novel type, which means people had no immunity against this virus as this was entirely a new type of virus.
- Casualties: 1-2 million people.
- Symptoms: Cough, chills, fever, weakness, body aches, loss of appetite
- Countries affected: Worldwide.
- Duration: 2 years (1956 – 1958)
9. Hong Kong Flu (1968)
The reason behind this flu was the H3N2 subtype of Influenza A virus that killed millions of people worldwide. The disease originated in Hong Kong hence also known as Hong Kong Flu. It was a category two pandemic that devastated the world in less than two years.
- Casualties: 1 million
- Symptoms: Chills, fever, muscle pain.
- Countries affected: United States, Australia, the Philippines, several countries in Europe, Singapore, and Vietnam.
- Duration: 1 year
10. HIV/AIDS (1980-81)
Originated in Haiti in the 20th century, this disease spread to New York and San Francisco. Even now, 70 million people are living their lives with this transmissible disease.
This disease originated from the Chimpanzee virus in western Africa.
- Casualties: 36-36 million people.
- Symptoms: Pneumonia, diarrhea, rapid weight loss, fever, and many more.
- Countries affected: Worldwide
- Duration: Continues
Watch this video about how HIV/AIDS developed and how to prevent the infection.
The 21st century started with the deadly COVID-19 disease that spread worldwide like rapid-fire, killing almost lakhs of people worldwide at the time of writing.
The symptoms include fever, sore throat, muscle pains. The ailment is spread probably from Pangolin to the humans originating in China and then spreading to the entire world like Italy, Germany, the USA, India, Pakistan, Spain, and many more countries.
Still have questions about Coronavirus? Check our dedicated article on this topic.
History repeats itself. The article shows how history has repeated itself since the time of its origin. Whenever the outbreaks occurred, science and humans bowed down in front of Mother Nature.
However, science and technological uses in the present era work at a high pace to eliminate this deadly disease outbreak. We hope that the death percentage will not be as high as the previous pandemics.
We can keep hope only. Rest, it is nature which is to decide our fate.
- https://www.foreigner.fi/articulo/news/top-ten-worst-pandemics-in-recent history/20200315111728004786.html