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The World At A Glance: A Documentary On The Worst Pandemics In History By Oluwatosin Olaniran

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The human race and the world at large have been faced with several health challenges calling for a global approach and attention. These global health challenges have been occurring for centuries and years and always comes up on it feet. In a bid to clearly understand this, it is imperative to state the differences between an epidemic and a pandemic. In particular, a lot of people are wondering about the differences in terms such as epidemic or pandemic, as well as the implications of the use of these concepts in layman’s terms. In terms of an epidemic or pandemic, there are few things to be noted. Most importantly, an epidemic is defined as an out break of diseases that affects many individuals at once and spreads rapidly.

Moreover, an outbreak is defined as a sudden, often unexpected escalation in the number of instances of a disease. An outbreak can occur in a particular community, geographical location, or across a multitude of countries.

Pandemic on the other hand is a type of epidemic. The formal is used to describe a disease that affects the entire nation or even the world at large. The difference between pandemic and epidemic is that while an epidemic may affect just one or few areas, a pandemic affects the entire world. An epidemic is said to become a pandemic when it has spread over a large geographical location.

Cholera, bubonic plague, small pox and influenza are some of the most brutal killers in human history. And outbreaks of these diseases across international borders, are properly defined as pandemic, especially small pox which throughout history, has killed between 300-500 million people in it’s 12,000 years existence according to research and statistics made available.

Having highlighted the difference between an epidemic and a pandemic, there is a need to discuss some of the worst pandemic recorded in the history of the world and human race.

Antonine Plague, the plague which occurred around 1665AD with an estimated death toll of 5 million lives. The plague is also known as the plague of Galen, the plague was an ancient pandemic that affected Egypt, Greece and Italy and is thought to have been either small pox or measles, though the true cause is still unknown as at the time of this report. This unknown disease was brought back to Rome by Soldiers returning from Mesopotamia around 1665ADQ, unknowingly, they had spread a disease which would end up killing over 5 million people and decimating the Rome army.

In the year 541-542, another pandemic hits the world and it was known as the PLAGUE OF JUSTINIAN with a total recorded death toll of 25 million. The cause of the plague is known as the bubonic plague. The plague of justinian is said to have killed perhaps half the population of Europe, the Plague of Justinian was an outbreak of the bubonic plague that afflicted the Byzantine Empire and Mediterranean port cities, killing up to 25 million people in its year long reign of terror. Generally regarded as the first recorded incident of the Bubonic Plague, the Plague of Justinian left its mark on the world, killing up to a quarter of the population of the Eastern Mediterranean and devastating the city of Constantinople, where at its height it was killing an estimated 5,000 people per day and eventually resulting in the deaths of 40% of the city’s population.

The Great Plague of London also made history, the plague which ravaged the world in the year 1665-1666 with a total recorded death toll of 100,000. Reports have it that the plague was ascribed to quarantine. Apparently, man kind has been observing this medical practice for centuries gone by.
Small pox also known as Virola major hits the world with a resounding blow. The disease reportedly existed for about 3,000 years and was traced to the Egyptian empires around 3rd century BCE (Before Common Europe). The global spread of Small pox left survivors blind, sterile and deepest scars on their skins. About 50 million lives were lost in the 18th century and another 300 million in the 20th century. Small pox was finally eradicated in a vaccination program led by the World Health Organization, this breakthrough is regarded as one of the greatest trial for furthering medicine.

Also, the Italian Plague of 1629-1631 recorded about 1 million death.
China as it turns out has been linked to devastating plagues in the past including the Third plague pandemic that occurred between 1855-1859. The disease which erupted in China and spread to all the inhabitants in the continent killing over 12 million people. The plague was finally traced to rats and fleas travelling on stay ships.

From 1346 to 1353 an outbreak of the BLACK DEATH. The plague ravaged Europe, Africa, and Asia, with an estimated death toll between 75 and 200 million people. Thought to have originated in Asia, the Plague most likely jumped continents via the fleas living on the rats that so frequently lived aboard merchant ships. Ports being major urban centers at the time, were the perfect breeding ground for the rats and fleas, and thus the insidious bacterium flourished, devastating three continents in its wake.

Third Cholera pandemic, generally considered the most deadly of the seven cholera pandemics, the third major outbreak of Cholera in the 19th century lasted from 1852 to 1860. Like the first and second pandemics, the Third Cholera Pandemic originated in India, spreading from the Ganges River Delta before tearing through Asia, Europe, North America and Africa and ending the lives of over a million people. British physician John Snow, while working in a poor area of London, tracked cases of cholera and eventually succeeded in identifying contaminated water as the means of transmission for the disease. Unfortunately the same year as his discovery (1854) went down as the worst year of the pandemic, in which 23,000 people died in Great Britain.

Like its five previous incarnations, the Sixth Cholera Pandemic originated in India where it killed over 800,000, before spreading to the Middle East, North Africa, Eastern Europe and Russia. The Sixth Cholera Pandemic was also the source of the last American outbreak of Cholera (1910–1911). American health authorities, having learned from the past, quickly sought to isolate the infected, and in the end only 11 deaths occurred in the U.S. By 1923 Cholera cases had been cut down dramatically, although it was still a constant in India.

Originally the “Asiatic Flu” or “Russian Flu” as it was called, this strain was thought to be an outbreak of the Influenza A virus subtype H2N2, though recent discoveries have instead found the cause to be the Influenza A virus subtype H3N8. The first cases were observed in May 1889 in three separate and distant locations, Bukhara in Central Asia (Turkestan), Athabasca in northwestern Canada, and Greenland. Rapid population growth of the 19th century, specifically in urban areas, only helped the flu spread, and before long the outbreak had spread across the globe. Though it was the first true epidemic in the era of bacteriology and much was learned from it. In the end, the 1889-1890 Flu Pandemic claimed the lives of over a million individuals.

In 1918 and 1920 a disturbingly deadly outbreak of influenza tore across the globe, widely called the SPANISH FLU of 1918, infecting over a third of the world’s population and ending the lives of 20 – 50 million people. Of the 500 million people infected in the 1918 pandemic, the mortality rate was estimated at 10% to 20%, with up to 25 million deaths in the first 25 weeks alone. The pandemic killed more people than the first world war. It is also known to be the most catarstrophic pandemic with an estimated death toll that rose to 50 million. What separated the 1918 flu pandemic from other influenza outbreaks was the victims; where influenza had always previously only killed juveniles and the elderly or already weakened patients, it had begun striking down hardy and completely healthy young adults, while leaving children and those with weaker immune systems still alive.

Asian Flu was a pandemic outbreak of Influenza A of the H2N2 subtype, that originated in China in 1956 and lasted until 1958. In its two-year spree, Asian Flu traveled from the Chinese province of Guizhou to Singapore, Hong Kong, and the United States. Estimates for the death toll of the Asian Flu vary depending on the source, but the World Health Organization places the final tally at approximately 2 million deaths, 69,800 of those in the US alone.

FLU PANDEMIC of 1968. A category 2 Flu pandemic sometimes referred to as “the Hong Kong Flu,” the 1968 flu pandemic was caused by the H3N2 strain of the Influenza A virus, a genetic offshoot of the H2N2 subtype. From the first reported case on July 13, 1968 in Hong Kong, it took only 17 days before outbreaks of the virus were reported in Singapore and Vietnam, and within three months had spread to The Philippines, India, Australia, Europe, and the United States. While the 1968 pandemic had a comparatively low mortality rate (.5%) it still resulted in the deaths of more than a million people, including 500,000 residents of Hong Kong, approximately 15% of its population at the time.

In the late 1880’s another pandemic sufficed, it is the YELLOW FEVER and which about 150,000 people lost their lives.

Another pandemic that caught the world in a night rob is the HIV/AIDS Pandemic with a wide spread outbreak in the year 2005-2012. First identified in Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1976, HIV/AIDS has truly proven itself as a global pandemic, killing more than 36 million people since 1981. Currently there are between 31 and 35 million people living with HIV, the vast majority of those are in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 5% of the population is infected, roughly 21 million people. As awareness has grown, new treatments have been developed that make HIV far more manageable, and many of those infected go on to lead productive lives. Between 2005 and 2012 the annual global deaths from HIV/AIDS dropped from 2.2 million to 1.6 million.

Ebola Virus Disease, the virus which cause was traced to bats. EVD is also known to be one of the deadliest virus diease in the world. It was first discovered in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The outbreak between 2014-2016 which began in Guinea has spread across borders within weeks, which puts it at a status of a global pandemic within months. The virus is said to have killed a quite number of people across the globe.

Science have known of the human coronavirus since 1960s, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) all belonged to the Coronavirus family with similar symptoms to COVID-19. The human Coronavirus belongs to the family of illness such as common cold, SARS, and others known as SARS Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

The deadly Coronavirus was first recorded in the central chinese city of Wuhan, China in late 2019 and which had spreaded to about 185 countries of the world with an high increasing numbers of confirmed cases and fatalities.The cause of the virus is yet unknown, and researches are currently going on to get a vaccination that would put an end to this pandemic. COVID-19 was declared a Public Health Emergency of international concern on 30th January, 2020 by the World Health Organization.

With COVID-19 currently finding it wings across the globe, this pandemic not only caught the world in a night rob, it is also redefining the elephant in the womb. While so countries may recover, others may be on life support for a long time to come. For what it was COVID-19 pandemic had most people pressing the reset button, while some are rebuilding their realtionships, others are retaking their priorities. In conclusion, the world may not remain the same as COVID-19 has clearly move the goal post for man kind. Humanity has a role to play, we must stay safe and ensure personal hygiene in all ramifications.

Sources:
All the relevant sources are duly acknowledged.

• http://news.discovery.com/human/health/10-worst-epidemics-130917.htm
• http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/cholera-s-seven-pandemics-1.758504
• http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3867475/
• http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/completelist/0,29569,2027479,00.html
• http://www.infoplease.com/cig/dangerous-diseases-epidemics/bubonic-plague.html
• http://www.who.int/csr/resources/publications/surveillance/plague.pdf
• http://healthvermont.gov/prevent/Plague.aspx
• http://www.loyno.edu/~history/journal/1996-7/Smith.html
• http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/01/health/01plague.html?_r=0
• http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4381924.stm
• http://www.loyno.edu/~history/journal/1996-7/Smith.html
• http://www.infoplease.com/cig/dangerous-diseases-epidemics/smallpox-12000-years-terror.html
• http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs360/en/index.html
• http://www.avert.org/worldstats.htm
• http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/statistics/basics/
• http://www.history.com/topics/1918-flu-pandemic
• http://www.infoplease.com/cig/dangerous-diseases-epidemics/smallpox-12000-years-terror.html
• http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/89/7/11-088815/en/
• http://www.mphonline.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Olaniran Oluwatosin is a Law Student at the Osun State University, Osogbo. He is an avid reader and researcher. He loves making research and obeservations on contemporary societal issues and challenges especially about Health and Civic responsibility.
Email: oluwatosinolaniran4@gmail.com

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