This is a tough time- the Pandemic has caused havoc in the lives of people around the globe. As of now, 4.4 million people have been infected by the highly contagious disease out of which 302000 deaths have been confirmed. Apart from affecting the social lives of the people this disease has brought the global economy on the verge of breakdown since the lockdown imposed in almost every country has affected the world of work to a great extent. Our researchers are continuously busy to come out with a cure or a vaccine so that the fear which has overshadowed the human race can be eliminated.
It is worth noting that there have been several diseases which have haunted humankind over centuries, evolving our species and reshaping the society. The wrath has been severe than what we are witnessing today in case of COVID19, thanks to the advance technology and health care system. Let us educate ourselves with diseases our predecessors have been through.
The Black Death (1347-1351)
This fatal pandemic also known as the Bubonic Plague had recorded the maximum death rate in global history. The origin of the disease was East Asia and later infected people in Eurasia and North Africa. Caused by the bacterium Yersinia Pestis, the disease had on an estimate reduced the World population by 350-375 million in the fourteenth century. The bacteria carried by fleas lived on black rats, easily found on merchant ships. Once the disease came onshore, it was transmitted by human fleas causing pneumonic plague in humans, thus making it highly contagious.
It is interesting to know that the concept of Quarantine was discovered at the time of this deadly pandemic. Though controlled the disease still persists. The symptoms of the disease are swollen lymph nodes, high fever, chills, fatigue and headache. With improved medications over the years, the disease is now treatable. Per year India reports less than five thousand cases infected by Black Death bacteria via insects and animals.
Small Pox (1520)
Originating in Europe this disease spread all over the world via European explorers. Initially, the disease was endemic to Europe, Asia and Arab and killed three out of ten infected people. Small Pox was caused by two variants of viruses, Variola Major and Variola Minor. The disease had flu-like symptoms with rashes which first occurred on the face then forearms and finally the torso.
Interestingly Small Pox became the first virus epidemic ended by a vaccine created by a British Doctor Edward Jenner. Claiming about 56 million lives, the disease was finally declared to be eradicated by the World Health Organization in the year 1980.
The Third Plague
After the Plague of Justinian and the Black Death, the Third Plague became a severe bubonic plague with flu-like symptoms. The pandemic originated in Yunnan China in 1855 and is believed to cover India and then several parts of the world. It became the third disease to cause mass deaths by a single bacterium ‘Yersinia Pestis’. The disease spread easily because of the interconnected world thus causing about twelve million deaths.
Because of the better understanding of medications doctors were able to make the disease treatable.
1918 Pandemic Spanish Flu (H1N1 virus)
Recent history holds the deadliest virus which led to the death of more than 50 million people worldwide. Avian origin genes gave birth to the H1N1 virus and 1918 was the first year to host this virus. A Military personnel of the United States was the first one to recognize with H1N1 virus in spring 1918. It lasted more than 15 months. The flu was considered to leave the world in the summer of 1919. About 500 million people were affected by H1N1 which was around 1/3rd of the world population at that time. The mortality rate with H1N1 was high with people younger than 5 years old, 20-40 years old, and 65 years and older. A unique feature of this pandemic was seen with the high mortality rate of healthy people belonging to the age group of 20-40 years. At that time, no drug was discovered to fight this deadly disease. All the public places with a high number of visitors such as schools, theatres, businesses were shut. People were asked to wear masks and hand gloves. The dead bodies were piled up in makeshift morgues.
The Global HIV/AIDS Pandemic
The first AIDS case was reported in the year 1981 and more than 25 million people are known to be dead by this disease worldwide till now. Yes, this disease is still affecting people and no country is reported AIDS-free. Currently, 37.9 million people in the world are living with AIDS. About 1.7 million affected people are children belonging to the age group less than 15 years and the remaining 36.2 million people are adults. 2018 has held the highest record of newly infected HIV-positive individuals and that estimates around 1.7 million people. About 79% of the HIV-positive people know that they are positive but the remaining 21% still haven’t got them tested and they need to access HIV testing services. About 62% of people that are around 23.3 million accessed the antiretroviral therapy (ART) globally which is comparatively 8 million more than 2010.
2009 Swine Flu Pandemic
The 2009 swine flu pandemic remained in the world for 20 months. It was an influenza pandemic. The first swine flu patient was discovered in January 2009. This flu pandemic is known as the second of the Spanish flu that affected 40 to 50 million people worldwide only in 2 years. This flue involved the H1N1 influenza virus, albeit a new strain. About 200,000 people died by swine flu worldwide from January 2009 to August 2010. The H1N1 influenza virus was a result of the re-assortment of three viruses, bird, swine, and human flu viruses. The resulted H1N1 was combined with a Eurasian pig flu virus to give swine flu. WHO declared the end of the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic on 10th August 2010. However, some people are every year affected by this (H1N1) pdm09 virus in a form on the flu virus. Every year, a very small ratio of people worldwide is hospitalized because of (H1N1) pdm09 and a good ratio of hospitalized people die.
Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)
Ebola did not only affect humans but primates too. EVD is also known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever. It causes severe fatal illness. The virus was initially discovered in the year 1976. Wild animals having EVD can transmit the disease in humans. Direct contact between the human population gave rise to EVD. Some bodily fluid such as blood, organs, or secretions of the infected people infects the surfaces and materials. The average fatality rate of EVD is 50%. Past outbreaks have a variability rate of 25% to 90% in EVD cases. About 113,000 people have died with this virus.
The first EVD case came to known from Central Africa. This region is surrounded by tropical rainforests. The largest Ebola outbreak was in West Africa for 2 years from2014–2016. Many countries were later affected by this virus and Guinea was the first one to welcome this disease across the borders. It then travelled to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Many organizations and people consider fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family as the natural hosts of the Ebola virus.
What Can be Summed Up?
History has clearly shown that humans have always struggled to survive out of the deadliest of disease no matter how difficult the struggle has been. The chaos caused by COVID has caused panic among people but research is being conducted on vaccines and medications to put an end to it!