Pandemics That Shook the World in Last 100 Years

Pandemics That Shook the World in Last 100 Years


By shristi

The recent outbreak of Coronavirus has caused an atmosphere of fear and confusion. The pandemic has already claimed thousands of lives and Governments across the globe have put their countries in a lockdown. Doctors have been working relentlessly and yet we can’t help but feel scared. So, we decided to look back 100 years and see how pandemics in that time period have affected the world. Before we get into it, here’s a quick definition for a pandemic – it is when an epidemic spread to multiple countries, affecting the entire world. It is when a disease goes international and out of control. Just like Coronavirus. 
History teaches us a lot and hopefully as you read about the 7 pandemics spread over 100 years, you will see some patterns and it will motivate you to stay at home!
  1. Spanish Flu of 1918
  • Severe, deadly, and the first major influenza pandemic of the 20th century is how we can describe Spanish flu. It was an H1N1 virus. 
  • It spread swiftly and had symptoms like fever, being short of breath, vomiting, and nosebleed. It was affecting every age group and even healthy adults died because of this flu.
  • With the first world war in place, the outbreak happened quickly and killed about 40 to 50 million people. No pandemic that came after Spanish flu saw such destruction and these many deaths. 
  • The first case was reported in Spain and thus the name Spanish flu. However, it is strongly believed that it was because Spain allowed free press at the time (being a neutral nation in the war) and they were able to report this illness. 
  • The doctors were at a loss not having seen this before and advised people to avoid crowded places. Social distancing eventually helped curb this outbreak. 
  • There were so many deaths that cemeteries were piled up with bodies. The mortality rate was 50 deaths for every 1000 people. 
  1. Asian Flu of 1957 
  • It was an outbreak of influenza identified in February 1957 first and lasted until 1958. It’s called Asian Flu because the first case was identified in East Asia. It spread through China to the United States by mid-summer. 
  • It was the second major influenza pandemic of the 20th century, the first being Spanish flu in 1918. It was an H2N2 subtype of Influenza A virus and thus, is also known as the H2N2 virus. 
  • Influenza is a common viral infection that has proven to be fatal. There were somewhere about 1 to 2 million deaths because of the flu and many more infections. It was particularly deadly for children, pregnant women, and the elderly.
  1. Hong Kong Flu of 1968
  • The third major influenza pandemic of the 20th century, it was first detected in 1968 and lasted until 1970. 
  • An H3N2 subtype, it killed over 1 million people all over the world. The infection caused upper respiratory issues, fever, chills, weakness, and muscle pain. 
  • Clinics were said to be packed; staying at home (sounds familiar?!) and taking rest was recommended by the doctors. It was most deadly for the elderly (anyone above 65).
  • It was comparatively mild but highly contagious. It spread quickly from Hong Kong to Southeast Asia. From there, it was spread to the United States mostly via returning soldiers (from Vietnam). By December, it had reached the United Kingdom and Europe. Countries like Australia, Africa, and Japan were also affected. A vaccine was eventually prepared for the flu. 
  1. HIV/AIDS – 1981
  • HIV is a virus that leads to AIDS. It is possibly the longest pandemic ever known with the first case being reported in 1981 by the CDC and at the moment (2020), there are almost 37.9 million people infected by this disease. 
  • It officially came to be known as AIDS in 1982 by the CDC. By 1983, people infected by AIDS were beginning to face discrimination. Students with AIDS were not allowed inside schools and treating them was considered taboo. 
  • In 1985, WHO held the first International Conference for AIDS. In 1988, WHO declared 1st December to be World AIDS Day. 
  • The Red Ribbon movement started in 1991. Safe Sex was being promoted while fighting the stigma around HIV AIDS. The disease can be transmitted even to new-borns through their mothers.
  • In 2018, around 62 percent of infected people were receiving Antiretroviral Therapy (ART). 
  • Taking an HIV test can help people start taking necessary precautions. If tested positive, getting proper medical care is important. 
  1. SARS – 2002
  • It was the first outbreak of the 21st century. It stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome that wreaked havoc from 2002 to 2003. 
  • It was identified first in Southern China and ended up affecting 23 countries in totality. There were around 8000 cases reported with almost 800 killed by the disease. 
  • The symptoms of the disease were quite similar to those of Influenza. It included fever, diarrhea, myalgia, headache, and cough.
  • Though the outbreak was contained quickly, China was criticized for not sharing complete information with its citizens and the world. 
  1. Swine Flu of 2009
  • This H1N1 virus emerged first in the United States and spread quickly. Another influenza virus which was very different from other H1N1 viruses. 
  • Somewhere between 150 to 550 thousand people died because of this flu. It was different in many senses, as 80 percent of deaths occurred amongst people below 65 years of age. One reason was that people over 65 had antibodies generated from fighting previous H1N1 viruses. 
  • The flu was highly contagious which was spread by coughing, sneezing, and touching one’s face with dirty hands. The symptoms for the flu included common influenza symptoms like fever, coughing, sore throat, body ache, diarrhea, and nausea. 
  • The pandemic officially ended in August 2010. 
  1. COVID-19 (Coronavirus) – 2019
  • This one we are living through right at the moment. The coronavirus originated from China and spread rather quickly killing thousands. 
  • It was officially announced as a pandemic on 11th March 2020 by WHO. As of 31st March 2020, there are 36,571 confirmed deaths and 754,948 confirmed cases. 
  • 203 countries including China, Italy, the USA, and Russia have already been affected because of this outbreak. 
  • Fever, cough, and shortness of breath are common symptoms. With no vaccination, the only cure is resting. The doctors have strongly advised people to practice social distancing. 
  • Many countries are observing strict lockdown to put a stop to this coronavirus. 
The aim of knowing about all these pandemics is quite simple. We hope you can see how viruses can be fought off by maintaining social distance and taking adequate rest. It is not a new concept but something that has been in use for the last 100 years. Please stay at your homes and wash your hands at regular intervals. 
Stay protected, stay safe!

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