Worst hit pandemics thorough ages

The novel Coronavirus has created a catastrophe in the entire world bringing it down to its knees with cases counting more than 16.7Cr, (as per the data provided by Wikipedia).

It’s not the first time that a pandemic has engulfed this large number of people from around the world. History has records of many deadly diseases creating havoc in the world.

Human civilizations have evolved and developed continually, causing population bursts. With no efficient knowledge of sanitation and hygiene, and poor health facilities people have unknowingly created fertile situations for the growth of these deadly infections.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has defined a pandemic as “an epidemic that has spread over several countries or even continents. Pandemics usually affect large segments of the population”.

Here’s a list of the worst hit pandemics through history.

Plague of Justinian, 541-542

Saint Sebastian pleads with Jesus for the life of a gravedigger afflicted by plague during the Plague of Justinian. (Josse Lieferinxe, c. 1497–1499)
Source pic- Wikipedia


The plague of Justinian was the worst pandemic recorded in history caused by the fatal bacterium called Yersinia pestis.
The plague was brought to Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, in 541 CE from Egypt. During the time Egypt was paying a tribute to Emperor Justinian in grains.
The plague-laden fleas infected the rats eating grains.

This lethal disease spread like a forest fire across Europe, Asia, North Africa, and Arabia killing an estimated 30 to 50 million people, almost half of the world’s population.

Black Death (1347-1351)


This was a global bubonic plague that hit Europe in 1347-1351, astonishingly taking a toll of 200 million in just 4 years.
It was a type of plague that was spread via the bite of infected rat fleas.
This plague caused religious, socio-economic upheaval with a profound impact on European history. The bacterium that caused this was the same that brought the Plague of Justinian.

During this time the sailors that had came to Europe were required to stay on their ship for 30 days, which was known as “Trentino” in Venetian law. Later, the Venetians increased the forced isolation to 40 days or a “quarantino”. From here quarantine word was introduced which is now in great implementation.

The painting “Blessed Bernard Tolomei Interceding for the Cessation of the Plague in Siena” by the Italian artist Giuseppe Maria Crespi.
Source pic- Britannica

Spanish Flu 1918:

Source pic- World Health Organization


Spanish flu was the most severe and devastating influenza pandemics that the world ever witnessed. Also known as the 1918 influenza pandemic, it infected 500 million people – about a third of the world’s population at the time – in four successive waves.
Though the flu engulfed Europe, America, and parts of Asia, the exact place and cause of its origin are unknown to this day.
Some say that the flu showed itself in the military camp in Kansas, and from the US it spread to Europe when the troops traveled east in World War I.

Though the name is Spanish flu the pandemic did not originate in Spain, the British Medical Journal referred to the virus as “Spanish flu” because Spain was hit hard by the disease.

Small Pox 15th Century:


Smallpox has been estimated to have killed over a 500 million people.
It was in 1980 that the World Health Organization declared smallpox to be eradicated.

Edward Jenner giving the boy smallpox vaccine.
source pic- Smithsonian Magazine

Smallpox became the first death-dealing pandemic whose vaccine was developed in the late 18th-century, by a British doctor named Edward Jenner.

Edward Jenner observed that some local milkmaids were not exposed to the harsh virus and just showed mild symptoms which were called “cowpox”. Edward then decided to extract a small sample of milkmaid’s pus and inject it into the arm of a young boy named James Phipps. After that, he exposed the boy to the smallpox virus, and to his amazement, the boy showed no illness. This was the first vaccine ever discovered in history.