The millennium generation saw covid-19 as the worst pandemic ever in 2020. However, covid-19 isn’t the first pandemic in the world. As far as the records of written history go, pandemics have tormented many generations before. And some of them were so deadly that they make covid-19 look bleak. Here’s a list of the most harmful diseases of world history.
The Bubonic Plague was called the Black Death because it blackened people’s bodies. Black Death was responsible for the death of 50 million people in the 14th century. This was nearly 60% of the entire Europe population and at that time. It is the most deadly disease in the history of humans. The doctor wore the infamous long-beaked masks when they went to visit plague patients to protect themselves. The famous song of Ringa Ringa Roses is associated with Black Death. The patient’s bodies were covered with rose-coloured rings, which turned black, and the doctors carried the posies to keep the stench. The Plague was caused by rodents who were infected by the bacterium Yersinia pestis had fleas. This wasn’t the first Plague, but it was the fatal one. It was first reported in 541 BC in Egypt.
The Speckled Monster:
Smallpox left the skin pockmarked and speckled. Like Plague, this disease has an ancient origin. Ramses V dies of smallpox, and the heliographs mentioned his pockmarked body being mummified. Smallpox has also been mentioned in Sanskrit scriptures. During the 18th century, it was responsible for 4 lakh people annually. The variola virus caused it. Smallpox leads to scabs everywhere on the body, filled with opaque pus. It dried and left Pitts on the skin. In 1796, Edward Jenner saw that people who developed cowpox didn’t get infected by smallpox. He made the first vaccine in history. Smallpox is completely eradicated now. The last case of smallpox was in Somalia in 1977.
Avian Influenza is as fatal to humans as it is destructive to animals. It is also called bird flu. The first case was reported in Italy in 1878. It was only in 1955 that it was characterized as a Type A virus. Although Avian Influenza never becomes a pandemic, it does have the potential to become one. Cases of bird flu are spotted here and there randomly. Thankfully, its spread is successfully restricted. H7N9 and H5N1 are the two strains of the virus that are potentially fatal to humans. Currently, 861 cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H5N1) and 1,568 cases of human disease with avian influenza A(H7N9) have been reported worldwide.
Mycobacterium lepraehas is responsible for Leprosy. It is a slow-growing bacteria, and the incubation period may range from 6 months to 40 years. It is not a contagious disease. So, it was not the bacteria that made the disease dangerous. It was people’s attitude towards patients. Lepers were barely considered human. Leprosy was seen as God’s punishment. A lot of superstitions and myths prevailed amongst the people that made it difficult for the patients. Leprosy mainly affected the skin. However, the symptoms changed from person to person. Hypopigmented skin lesions to blindness, deformity and severe facial disfigurement are the common symptoms. Treatment of Leprosy is possible but complicated. It involves a series of different antibodies and depends upon the patients. Some species of Armadillos are known to carry leprosy bacteria. It is still present, but its threat is low.
This was a much-feared disease in the last century. Children were very susceptible to this disease. Poliovirus is highly contagious. 72% of people affected with Polio became crippled for a lifetime. Others showed cold-like symptoms that varied in intensity. The last century saw frequent outbreaks of Polio. However, thankfully we have a successful vaccine to battle it. Many countries ran a campaign that included children getting the vaccine at an early age to prevent Polio. A limited amount of these dosages were enough to build the immune system against the virus. These dosages were oral. The last cases of Polio were seen in Pakistan in 2019.
So, these are the deadliest diseases of world history.