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Outbreaks of swine flu, even if the death toll is less than 100, receive the widest possible coverage in the media. After all, it threatens to develop into a pandemic, becoming an outbreak of an infectious disease over a large geographic area.
History knows many cases of massive epidemics, some were so powerful that they overthrew governments or even destroyed entire civilizations. The swine flu is likely to be defeated and forgotten. We will tell you about 10 of the most striking cases of epidemics that have left a huge mark in history.
Plague of Athens. This epidemic broke out in Greece during the Peloponnesian War in 430 BC. Historians have never been able to come to a consensus - whether it was plague, smallpox, typhoid or measles. All diseases are under consideration, and the generally accepted version is bubonic plague. The disease began when the inhabitants of Athens hid behind the walls of their city-state to defend against the advancing Spartan army. The inevitable cramped conditions became a breeding ground for the plague, which is rumored to have killed one in three Athens and one in three warriors. The city's leader, Pericles, was also among the victims of the epidemic. The epidemic, described by the historian Thucydides, began in Ethiopia and went through Egypt and Libya. As a result, Athens, which dominated Greece at that time, lost its status as the leader of the Hellenic civilization forever.
Malaria. Today, this disease is found only in the tropics, but it has earned the reputation of one of the most devastating pandemics in the world. About 500 million people are infected with malaria each year. The disease is caused by drug-resistant parasites found in some mosquito species. No reliable vaccines have yet been developed. Malaria and its effects have been well documented and have played a role throughout history. So, during the Civil War in the United States, about a million cases of the disease were noted. Malaria is also called by many as one of the main factors in the decline and fall of the entire Roman Empire.
Plague of Antoninus. Today it is generally accepted that this pandemic was an outbreak of measles or smallpox. The plague of Antoninus was the very epidemic that brought the Roman Empire into decline from AD 165 to 180. It is suspected that the disease, also known as the plague of Galen (it was this doctor who described it), was brought to Rome by troops returning from the war in the East. Historians believe that at its height, the epidemic killed one in four people infected, for a total of about 5 million people. Even two Roman emperors fell victim to the plague. Similar diseases flared up in 251, and there was reason to believe that the plague of Antoninus had returned. The new wave was called the Cyprus plague, it was so strong that up to 5 thousand people died in Rome alone a day.
Typhus. This disease is known for its ability to spread rapidly in cramped and unsanitary conditions. Typhus is credited with millions of deaths in the 20th century alone. The disease was also called camp or prison typhus, as it flared up both on the front line during the war, and in prisons and camps, where prisoners were kept in close quarters. It is believed that the pandemic alone killed about 8 million Germans in 30 years of war in the 20th century. It is well documented that typhus was one of the main causes of deaths in Nazi concentration camps. One of the most famous acts of typhus was the death of the French army during the invasion of Russia in 1812. In Napoleon's army, the epidemic killed about 400 thousand soldiers, this is more than died directly in the battles.
Seven cholera pandemics. Cholera has become one of the most dangerous diseases in history, especially the wave of "seven pandemics". During it, from 1816 to 1960, tens of millions of people died. The disease is transmitted through contaminated food or water. The first victims appeared in India, it is believed that from 1817 to 1860, cholera killed up to 40 million people there. Then the epidemic spread to Europe and America, where more than one hundred thousand people died in the middle of the 19th century. Although periodic outbreaks of cholera were still apparent, medical advances have noticeably weakened its deadly effects. Once the death rate from the disease was at least 50 percent, today it threatens life only in the rarest cases.
Third pandemic. The third pandemic was the third and largest outbreak of the bubonic plague, after the Plague of Justinian and the Black Death. It all began in China in the 1850s, eventually spreading to all six inhabited continents of the planet. The pandemic practically came to naught only in the middle of the 20th century. Despite the modern level of medicine, the pandemic ended up killing about 12 million people in China and India. Today, the disease is considered inactive, although only recently, in 1995, isolated cases of bubonic plague were recorded in the western United States.
Smallpox. Although successfully defeated today, smallpox was able to ravage America when European settlers first arrived in the 15th century. Of all the diseases brought to the New World, it was smallpox that became the most dangerous. The disease is credited with the deaths of millions of indigenous people in North and Central America. It was smallpox that destroyed the civilizations of the Incas and Aztecs. This disease is considered to be the main factor under the influence of which these ancient civilizations allowed the Spaniards to conquer themselves. And in Europe, epidemics were also terrible. Historians believe that in the 18th century alone, smallpox claimed the lives of 60 million people.
Plague of Justinian. This pandemic is considered one of the first to be reflected in historical records. The Plague of Justinian was a particularly dangerous wave of disease that broke out in the Byzantine Empire around 541. Today it is difficult to talk about the exact number of victims, it is believed that around the world as a result, about 100 million people died. At the peak of the epidemic, up to 5 thousand people died every day, in the Eastern Mediterranean one in four died. In addition to such a staggering death rate, the pandemic has taken on a political dimension. Such a blow to Byzantium could not pass without a trace, the empire soon collapsed, irrevocably losing its luster. The plague itself covered almost all countries of that time - from England to China, significantly changing the course of European history.
Spanish flu. This epidemic came in the wake of the devastation of the First World War. As a result, the Spanish flu of 1918 is considered one of the most severe pandemics in history. Experts believe that this type of influenza was infected worldwide about 30% of the total population. As a result, more than 100 million people died. The virus was subsequently identified as the H1N1 strain. It appears like a wave, often disappearing into society as quickly as it appears. Many governments, fearing popular uprisings, have done everything to downplay the severity of the epidemic and its consequences. Even military censorship was used. Only Spain, neutral during World War II, allowed the publication of comprehensive news and reports on the new epidemic. That is why the pandemic eventually became known as the "Spanish flu".
Bubonic Plague (Black Death). This pandemic is the most famous in the history of our civilization. The Black Death is an epidemic whose massive outbreak ravaged Europe for most of the 14th century. This disease was characterized by bleeding ulcers all over the body and high fever. Historians believe that this outbreak of plague then killed between 75 and 200 million people. 45-50% of the entire population of Europe was destroyed. For another hundred years, the plague appeared here and there, reminding of itself and taking away the next thousand lives. Its last major outbreak was in London in the 1600s.