Safety and Survival

The Biggest Plagues in History

The Biggest Plagues in History
The biggest plagues in history killed millions of people worldwide. While most of these infections ended hundreds of years ago, there are a few that remain a serious threat to human health

If study history, you will find out that apart from the COVID-19 pandemic, many plagues caused havoc to humankind in the earlier times.  Due to poor medical science, thousands to millions of people have died due to the pandemics of ancient times. Here are the top 10 of the biggest plagues ever recorded in human history.

Microscopic image of the Pestis bacteria that caused the Bubonic plague

  1. Prehistoric Epidemic.This pandemic occurred in a prehistoric village in China approximately in 3,000 B.C. Based on archaeological pieces of evidence; scientists found out that the prehistoric epidemic killed people across age brackets. Remains of children, adults, and old ones were found in the vicinity of Hamin Mangha- the epicenter of the prehistoric pandemic. Archaeological evidence also pointed out that this pandemic swiftly ravaged China. The victims were not given proper burial due to the exponential spreading of the disease.
  2. Plague of Athens.An epidemic that killed over 100,000 people in Athens. The Plague of Athens was first recorded in 430 B.C. and lasted for five years. This plague easily transmitted to a vast number of people due to the impending war between Athens and Sparta. Armies of both sides overcrowded places without observing proper hygiene and sanitation. As the famous Greek historian, Thucydides described, this disease caused people to experience extreme heat in the body, redness, and inflammation of the eyes, and throat and tongue bleeding. Several scientists are arguing on the real score of the Plague of Athens. Some believed that the plague is what is known as Ebola today. But many scientists also say that the epidemic that crippled Athens in the midway of 400 BC is a strain of typhoid fever.
  3. Antonine Plague. This disease killed more than 5 million people in the Roman Empire. According to historians, the Antonine Plague was brought by the Roman Empire armies back home after winning a war against Parthia. Experts said that this plague appeared to be closely related to smallpox. This plague started on 165 A.D. and lasted for 15 years. Aside from countless civil wars, the Antonine Plague is also considered as one of the significant factors that led to the downfall of the Roman Empire.
  4. Plague of Cyprian. This pandemic got its name from a bishop of Carthage known as St. Cyprian. The Plague of Cyprianoccurred from 250-271 AD and killed 5,000 people daily in Rome alone. In 2014, archaeologists from Luxor discovered what appeared to be a mass burial site for the Plague of Cyprian victims. The remains were covered with dense lime, which also served as a disinfectant.Scientists have yet to figure out whatthe Plague of Cyprian really was. The symptoms of this plague are unique. According to St. Cyprian, people suffered from this plague experienced extreme loss of body strength and the mouth’s fauce became inflamed and developed severesores.
  5. Plague of Justinian. This plague caused about 10% of the world’s population to die. The Plague of Justinian or the bubonic plague reoccurred periodically and contributed to the decline of the Byzantine Empire’s strength. The bubonic plague is called the Plague of Justinian, following the name of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, who reigned from 527-565 AD. Emperor Justinian got sick with this plague but was able to survive.
  6. Black Death. Experts estimate that the Black Death killed over half of the total population of Europe from 1346-1353. Symptoms of this plague include fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea, and bleeding of the nose, mouth, and rectum. The Black Death first caused havoc in Asia and reached Europe in October 1347 after 12 ships from the Black Sea ferrying infected persons docked at the Sicilian port.
  7. Cocoliztli Epidemic.This plague affected Mexico and entire Central America. The symptoms of this infection are very much alike of that of hemorrhagic fever. Experts estimated that over 15 million people have died due to Cocoliztli Epidemic from 1545- 1548. A recent Harvard study confirmed that people who died of this plague were infected with a Salmonella subspecies known as  paratyphi C. Today, the S. paratyphi Cis still a major health threat globally.
  8. American Plague.This 16th-century plague pertains to a cluster of Eurasian diseases, including smallpox, believed to have reached America due to European explorers. More or less, 90% of the total population in the Western Hemisphere was wiped out by this plague. The American plague was a significant factor of the downfall of Aztec and Inca civilizations.
  9. Great Plague of London.Considered as the major outbreak of Black Death that caused enormous exodus in London. This plague killed over 100,000 people, reaping 15% of London’s total population. According to studies, fleas from infected rodents caused the exponential transmission of this infection. The Great Plague of London devastated London from 1665-1666.
  10. Great Plague of Marseille. This plague killed 30% of the total population of Marseille. According to historical accounts, a ship named Grand-Saint-Antoine carrying goods from the Mediterranean brought the pandemic in Marseille, France. Fleas from plague-infected rodents were discovered in the Grand-Saint-Antoine. Over 100,000 people have died of this plague from 1720-1723.

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