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Historical pandemics

Areeba Siddiqui


The writer is a mass-communication student at Karachi University.

The novel coronavirus is a modern-day epidemic that has shocked the world. The developed world in this 21st century never imagined that a virus would affect the whole world in such a manner that everyone would be forced into isolation.
The epidemic originated from the Chinese city of Wuhan has now engulfed almost 186 countries and has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people globally, while more than 200,000 people have been affected worldwide.
The virus has targeted and even brought developed countries such as France, Italy, Germany China, USA and UK on their knees. The virus has also dealt a massive blow to world’s economy. We never imagined that when the world had advanced technology, a virus will create havoc that will be uncontainable. Today, the whole world dreads the virus and there is panic.
China has almost contained the coronavirus outbreak, but scientists in Italy, US and UK are still figuring out solutions to overcome this disease. Pakistan has also become a victim of coronavirus and the numbers of confirmed cases are increasing rapidly. We can hope that Pakistan and other affected countries can contain this disease just like China.
It is not the first time humanity has suffered from an epidemic. Throughout history, there have been many outbreaks that have lost lives of millions. The only difference is at that time no resources existed that can contain these types of outbreaks, and now despite having all the resources, the situation is uncontainable.
Here is the list of some of the epidemics in history that have claimed lives of millions.
1- The Black Death: It is one of the types of plague which was the largest outbreak in human history. Experts claimed that this plague changed the course of Europe’s history. Humanity has never suffered from such a disaster that resulted from this disease. This epidemic was originated in 1346 and remained till 1353.
The Black Death traveled from Asia to Europe and claimed the lives of almost 200 million people. It was so intense that there were no lands for burial in an entire city of Italy. This disease was usually spread by infected rodents and wild squirrels and then easily transmited from person to person.
2- Cocoliztli Epidemic: The Cocoliztli epidemic killed 15 million inhabitants of Mexico. It first originated in 1545 and remained till 1548. Thirty years later, this disease once again spread in Mexico and claimed lives of more than 2 million people. The cause of the epidemic remains unknown, while several pieces of research were made on it. The symptoms of the disease include high fever and bleeding from nose, eyes and mouth, while death occurred within 3 to 4 days.
3- Encephalitis Pandemic: In 1915-16, a new illness suddenly appeared in Vienna and rapidly spread around the world and claimed lives of almost 5 million people worldwide. The disease attacks the brain, leaving some victims in statue-like conditions, speechless and motionless.
4- Antonine Plague: This disease affected Asia Minor, Egypt, Greece, and Italy and claimed lives of more than 5 million people. The outbreak that lasted from 165 to 180 A.D. shocked the whole of Europe. The cause and cure of the disease still remain unknown.
5- Smallpox: Surprisingly, smallpox is a three thousand years old disease. History shows the first recorded confirmed in the 18th Century. Children were mostly affected by the disease. Smallpox spread in 1950 terribly and claimed lives of more than 20 million people.
In this disease, the initial symptoms were skin rashes, fever, and vomiting with a thirty percent risk of dying. The last naturally occurring case was diagnosed in October 1977, and the World Health Organization (WHO) certified the global eradication of the disease in 1980.
6-Spanish Flu: This disease was spread in 1918 and remained till 1920 and claimed lives of more than 500 million people. This flu-infected over a third of the world’s population. The disease was spread in Spain and most of the victims were young people.
7- AIDS Epidemic: The virus was transmitted from chimpanzees to humans in West Africa in 1981. The outbreak affected most of Africa. More than 35 million people have died from this disease.
Apart from all these diseases, other types of viruses have spread around the world that have killed thousands of people. Coronavirus is nothing in front of these diseases, soon it will be controlled.
Nowadays there is a complete cure present for every type of disease. People should not panic and should follow the precautionary measures to protect themselves and others from this disease.
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