Skip to content

Major infectious diseases around the world in history

Infectious diseases caused by viruses and bacteria becoming pathogens have occupied a large portion of human history, including completely changing human civilization. Examples include smallpox, which destroyed ancient civilizations in Latin America, the plague that devastated Europe in the Middle Ages, and the Spanish flu that killed 50 million people in the 20th century. Since then, the epidemic of infectious diseases, which gradually declined due to the development of science and medical technology, is still threatening humanity in the 21st century as it increases again due to the appearance of mutated viruses. Also, paradoxically, cases in which the pandemic of infectious diseases led to the development of quarantine and medicine are also found in history. Cholera caused by contaminated water has created an opportunity for the water and sewage systems of major cities around the world to be renovated, and the Spanish flu, which killed more than 50 million people, has created a culture where the importance of vaccination and the safety of medical personnel are prioritized.

“Smallpox” that destroyed the Inca and Aztec Empires

Smallpox, said to be the first infectious disease of mankind, was the decisive cause of the destruction of the Aztec Empire in Mexico by Hernan Cortes of Spain in 1519, with fewer than 1,000 people. Is known. Smallpox had a maximum mortality rate of 90% until Edward Jenner of England discovered the vaccination method in 1796, and even if he barely survived, it left serious aftereffects such as blindness, physical impairment, and gombo. However, smallpox gradually declined as vaccinations were made, and it no longer occurred after the last patient in Somalia in 1977. In May 1980, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially announced that smallpox had completely disappeared from the planet, making it the first viral infectious disease to disappear from the planet.

The “Pest” that devastated medieval Europe

It is an acute febrile infectious disease caused by Yersinia Pestis. It is also called plague because its flesh turns black after infection. The plague, which began in the dry plains of Central Asia in the early 1300s, landed in Europe in the late 1340s via the Silk Road. The plague that spread in Europe devastated medieval Europe by annihilating 30-40% of the European population by 1351. The plague had a tremendous impact on Europe at the time, as it is known that the European population recovered to the level before the plague outbreak only two centuries later into the 16th century. The plague seemed to disappear into history at the end of the 19th century as Pasteur developed the cause and treatment of the outbreak, but cases of the plague are still emerging in parts of Africa and Asia.

“Cholera” led to maintenance of water and sewage systems

Cholera is a waterborne infectious disease caused by Vibrio Cholerae.It was originally endemic in Bengal, India, but began to spread around the world after being transferred to Calcutta by British troops invading India in 1817. . Cholera then went through seven pandemics and spread to all continents except Antarctica, and millions of people died of cholera. Cholera was initially blamed for bad air, but the path of infection through contaminated water and food later became known, which served as an opportunity to improve water and sewage systems in major cities around the world, such as London and New York.

The birth of the Christmas Seal, “Tuberculosis”

Tuberculosis is the most life-saving infectious disease in human history since its traces were discovered in stone age fossils around 7000 BC. In particular, tuberculosis, a representative epidemic of the 19th century, killed a quarter of the European population until the early 1800s, and the fact that the cause was tuberculosis was known by German bacteriologist Robert Koch in 1882.

“Spanish flu” killed more than World War I

The Spanish flu was the worst infectious disease that killed many humans in the 20th century. It began spreading around the world through returning soldiers in 1918 after World War I, and it spread for two years. About 50 million people died from the Spanish flu during this period, much more than the 9 million killed in World War I.

“Ebola hemorrhagic fever”, the virus of death that hits Africa

Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever, first discovered in Yambuku in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo) in August 1976, is a deadly virus that hit Africa. Ebola caused fear in 2014 in West Africa, including Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, killing 11,310 people, especially in Europe and the United States. Since then, in March 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared an end to the Ebola virus, but it occurred again in May 2017.

The worst fear that hits the twentieth century, “acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)”

AIDS is a disease in which immune function decreases due to infection with the HIV/Human Immunodeficiency Virus, and was first discovered in the United States in 1981. Then, in 1983, when Dr. Vareshnusi and Montagne of France succeeded in separating HIV from the blood for the first time in the world, the reality of AIDS, which was an unknown entity, was revealed. Since AIDS was first discovered, it has long been considered an incurable disease, with 36 million deaths worldwide. Currently, about 35 million people are living with the AIDS virus, but in 1996, antiretroviral drugs that inhibit retrovirus proliferation were developed, and cocktail therapy using these drugs was established, and as a result, they are gradually deviating from the category of incurable diseases.

The tragedy brought about by non-disclosure of information, “SARS”

SARS is a severe acute respiratory syndrome that first occurred in Guangdong Province, China in November 2002, and then spread to the world via Hong Kong. At that time, a large number of 30 medical staff were infected by a patient who was admitted to a hospital in Guangdong Province, and the doctor who treated him became infected and went to Hong Kong to become the second super spreader. Over the next eight months, more than 8,000 cases of SARS have occurred in 30 countries, of which 774 have died. In particular, SARS was highly criticized that China failed its initial response without disclosing information at the beginning, and as a result, it led to global spread.

WHO’s First Emergency Declaration, “Swine Flu”

Influenza A virus subtype, or swine flu, started in Mexico in the spring of 2009 and spread to the world beyond the United States in April. It was initially called swine flu because it was caused by pigs infected with influenza A virus. The swine flu outbreak in 214 countries and killed 18,500 people worldwide.WHO declared the first international public health emergency after the spread of the swine flu in April 2009, followed by the highest infectious disease warning on June 11 It has also proclaimed a stage, Pandemic. Since then, Tamiflu, an antiviral drug, has been used as a treatment for the swine flu, and it is now called as type A flu, not swine flu.

Leave a comment