Infectious diseases (coronavirus) have been a steady companion of humans. They have been tormenting the existence of human civilization for centuries. It’s time we learn from the past!
As WHO labelled the coronavirus a pandemic, the history which is no stranger to global disease outbursts, again reiterated itself. But the variation between history and present is that each lesson of the past has enlightened us to deal with such epidemics in a better way. As human civilizations extended, global pandemics wiped out the majority of the population across different parts of the world.
Bubonic plague, smallpox, and influenza are some of the most vicious killers of human civilization. Nothing has killed more human beings than an infectious disease. Widespread trade built new chances for both human and animal interactions but also gave rise to epidemics like tuberculosis, influenza, malaria or smallpox.
All of it began with Antonine Plague, also known as the Plague of Galen. It is believed to be either smallpox or measles. It occurred in the time period of 165-180 AD and has killed around 5M population of the world. Pandemics have annihilated generations, empires, and societies.
The reason behind mitigating the impact of such epidemics depends on the understanding of the factors and healthcare improvements. Unawareness or poor sanitation and nutrition of the people have served the fertile breeding ground for such diseases. But with time, our health organizations became more organized and systematic to fight with such pandemics.
The stakes are higher this time, as the wave of coronavirus is hitting us harder than ever before. Let’s take a look back at the history of pandemics.
Welcome back to 430 BC during the Peloponnese War.
1. Plague of Justinian
The plague of Justinian was no less than a nightmare and era of the misery of the Eastern Roman Empire. It also became the primary reason for the fall of the roman empire. The disease was named after the ruler of the Byzantine Empire Justinian, at that period. The irony in the name of the plague reveals a lot about how the emperor was worthless in controlling the plague.
Scientists believed that the Justinian plague spread through fleas. The full extent of the disease is still not known. But one thing was sure that the plague strongly affected the region of the Mediterranean.
The bubonic plague, or the Plague of Justinian, is assumed to have annihilated more than 40 million people. This was equal to half of the world’s population at that time. It is deemed as one of the deadliest plagues that prevailed in the history of Europe. The first outbreak of the plague was the reign of Justinian.
It is believed that the pandemic began in Africa and then spread into other parts of the world including Europe. The death rate during the bubonic plague was so high that the dead bodies were left at the place where they died, as there was no place available to bury such a huge number of dead bodies. The accounts shared by the ancient historian reveals information about the symptoms of the bubonic plague.
Those who were suffering from the bubonic plague showed symptoms like-
- Swollen lymph nodes
It is said that the Justinian Plague happened at a very significant moment. It gave rise to Roman Barbarian kingdoms, as it thwarted the power of the Eastern Roman empire over the western regions including Italy and Northern Africa.
2. Black Death
This plague is considered as one of the deadliest disease outbreaks in the history of human civilization. Plague went on to blow Europe and the middle east for the successive upcoming centuries. The time period 14th and 18th centuries are known as the second plague pandemic as plague pandemics continued reoccurring.
The plague was mainly caused by the infection with the bacterium Yersinia Pestis. It travelled from person to person by means of air, and also by the bites of infected fleas and rats. It circulates among wild rodents where they reside in large numbers. Black death reached most of the parts of Europe through the trade routes. T
The tragedy caused by the plague was terrible as it killed 60% of the population of Florence. It took a time period of 200 years for the population of Europe to cover up from the black death. The black death entered Europe via Sicily and it became the spot where Italians received the plague. One more existing source was the Silk Road which was used by the Mongol traders. The disease was being carried along with trade and reached different parts of the world like France, Spain, Britain, and Ireland by means of trade.
It is believed that the plague reached Europe in the 13th century by means of 12 ships from the black sea, in which most of the passengers on the ship were dead. The plague is assumed to have emerged in Asia around 2000 years ago. According to Boccaccio, an Italian writer, the disease was so fatal and communicable that it spread just by touching the clothes. People who were perfectly fine and healthy at night were found dead by the morning. It was described as the black death because it could make the skin or pores black. Other symptoms of the plague included fever and incredible pain in different parts of the body.
At last, the disease departed by 1352 CE but did reoccur again. Throughout the entire medieval period, the plague kept appearing but its intensity and severity got reduced with time.
It is estimated that smallpox first made its appearance around 12000 years ago. Besides, the scholars, writers, and painters that belong to the time when the epidemics prevailed deliver some significant data about the occurrence, symptoms and casualty rate of the epidemics. Smallpox is caused by a various virus, which belongs to the family of orthopoxvirus. The historical data reveals that every 3 out of 10 people who underwent the virus, lost their lives.
Those who were under the influence of the virus showed primary symptoms of-
- high fever
- back pain
- outburst on the skin that leaves the skin covered with cratered pockmarks or pox.
Most of the victims that got killed by the acute disease were children. Those who were saved from the virus faced a lot of miseries during their entire life. In some cases, even blindness.
But smallpox is the only disease in the history of epidemics that was controlled with the help of a vaccine. The disease was officially eradicated in 1980. The vaccine that saved the world from smallpox was created by an English physician named Edward Jenner in 1796.
A global vaccination program was then conducted by the WHO ( World Health Organization) against the eradication of smallpox. But the vaccine is only given to those patients who are severely infected by the virus because of the adverse side effects of the vaccine which is a toxic or allergic rash that can take various forms.
The last case of smallpox existed in 1977 in Somalia. Smallpox has ascertained to be one of the most destructive and lethal epidemics that the world has confronted.
4. The Spanish Flu or Influenza
The Spanish flu is one of the pernicious and fatal diseases that killed almost one-third of the planet’s population. It infected 500 million people and putting an end to the lives of 20 million to 50 million people. Out of these, 6.75 million were the Americans. It occurred in 1918.
It is estimated that influenza killed more people than the great World War I did during the time period of 1918-1919. The effect of the Spanish flu was so malignant that the standard life range in the US was diminished by ten years. The virus hit the hardest on people aged between 20 to 30 and spread among all the parts of the world. The expansion of the flu was promoted because of the cramped conditions of soldiers and the poor nutrition that people were retained during the wartime.
Influenza is caused by the HN1 virus which was highly communicable and transferred from person to person by means of airborne respiratory secretions. It became the reason for the severe mortality that the world witnessed. The first indication of the flu was developed pneumonia with death usually coming after two days of it.
Pandemics are no stranger to the people on Earth. Ancient data has a lot to assert about the past of the pandemics that shattered and devastated the world to a tremendous extent and seized us down to years back. But it’s extremely to learn from the past and not reiterate the negligences in the future or present.
The coronavirus pandemic is the biggest global crisis of our time that has emerged after world war two. The people standing entirely unguarded and impotent against the virus. The lives of the people across the world are at stake, as cases are arising every day from different parts of the world. The wave of the coronavirus pandemic has limited the world which was moving at an uncatchable rate.
For now, there is no coronavirus treatment available. Yet the researches are being conducted to find a way to cope with the virus.
The coronavirus pandemic or COVID-19 is affecting 210 countries around the world and as per now, 1,930,780 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported.
What is Coronavirus?
The COVID-19 is a member of the coronavirus family that is transferred to humans from animals. The virus is known as the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and has been declared as a pandemic by WHO.
The virus jumps from one species to another and is highly contagious. It has a higher death rate in comparison to any flu or illness. The coronavirus shows the same symptoms like flu and it makes it harder to differentiate coronavirus from flu. The primary symptoms include having cough, fever, chills, more throat, muscle aches, fatigue, vomiting and in some cases even diarrhoea. The only way one can get confirmed about coronavirus is by a laboratory test.
Are we prepared for the future?
With the dawn of 2020, the world is again whacked by a new pandemic. New viruses will keep endangering human civilization for the next decades and centuries. The question is are we ready to face the future? If we have a look back at the history of pandemics, the future of humanity holds many outbreaks of infectious diseases for decades to come. The only thing that can save the future of humanity is by advancing medical technologies which will arm us with better weapons to protect the existence of humans.