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Pandemics of the world

  • IASbaba
  • March 27, 2020
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Pandemics of the world

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II- Health; GS III – Economy; Disaster Management

In News: 

  • COVID-19 is the most recent disease which was declared as pandemic by the World Health Organization.

A glimpse through major pandemics of the world which caused huge loss to life:

The Plague of Justinian
  • It killed between 30 million and 50 million people.
  • The cause of the Plague of Justinian was infectious fever caused by Yersinia pestis.
Black death
  • Between 1347 and 1351, it spread throughout Europe, killing approximately 25 million people
  • It is believed to have been the result of plague – an infectious fever caused by bacterium Yersinia pestis
  • It was likely transmitted from rodents to humans by the bite of infected fleas.
Smallpox (15th – 17th centuries)
  • Smallpox claimed the lives of approximately 20 million people, close to 90% of the population, in the Americas. 
  • The pandemic helped Europeans colonize and develop the newly vacated areas.
  • Smallpox is caused by infection with the variola virus transmitted through various ways.
Cholera (1817 – 1823)
    • The first cholera pandemic began in Jessore, India.
  • It was the first of 7 major cholera pandemics that have killed millions of people. 
  • The World Health Organization has called cholera “the forgotten pandemic”.
  • Its seventh outbreak, which began in 1961, continues to this day.
  • It is caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with a bacterium called Vibrio cholera.
Spanish Flu or H1N1 (1918 – 1919)
  • It is caused due to H1N1 virus.
  • It infected around 500 million people, or a third of the world’s population, of that time. 
  • The pandemic was responsible for killing over 50 million people globally.
Hong Kong Flu or H3N2 (1968 – 1970)
  • Global fatalities were around one million.
  • It was caused by an H3N2 strain of the influenza A virus.
  • It is believed that the virus responsible for the Asian flu evolved and re-emerged 10 years later into this so-called “Hong Kong flu”.
  • H3N2 was exceptionally contagious.
HIV/AIDS (1981 – present)
  • Since 1981, 75 million people have had the HIV virus and approximately 32 million have died as a result.
  • HIV/AIDS is a persistent epidemic that continues to impact millions of people every year. 
  • The HIV infection is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
  • The virus can be transmitted through contact with infected blood, semen or vaginal fluids.
SARS (2002 – 2003)
  • SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is an illness caused by one of the 7 coronaviruses that can infect humans. 
  • In 2003, an outbreak that originated in the Guangdong province of China became a global pandemic.
  • It infected around 8,000 people and killing 774 of them.
  • The consequences of the 2003 SARS pandemic were largely limited due to an intense public health response by global authorities.
Swine Flu or H1N1 (2009 – 2010)
  • It was a new form of the influenza virus which emerged in 2009.
  • It infected approximately millions of people with global deaths in the range of 151,700 to 575,400
  • It is called the “swine flu” because it appeared to cross over from pigs to humans in transmission.
  • 80% of the virus-related deaths occured in people younger than 65.
Ebola (2014 – 2016)
  • It began in a small village in Guinea in 2014 and spread to a handful of neighbouring countries in West Africa.
  • It is caused by infection with a virus of the Filoviridae family, genus Ebolavirus.
  • The virus killed 11,325 of the 28,600 infected people, with most cases occurring in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
Coronavirus, or COVID-19 (2019 – present)
  • Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.
  • Worldwide cases have surpassed 500,000 with more than 24,000 deaths globally. 
  • It is believed to be transmitted from animals to humans.
  • The vast majority of cases are reported from USA now. 
  • On March 11, the WHO characterized the outbreak as a pandemic.
  • Estimates indicate that Coronavirus could eventually infect 40% to 70% of the global population.
  • Practicing social distancing is recommended.
  • The damage to the world economy threaten the worst recession since the Great Depression or the “panics” of the 1800s, depending on the scale of government responses.

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