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One of the outcomes from our current “stay home, stay safe” situation for me is wondering about the history of pandemics.  Of course, I wonder about a lot of rather strange things.

Let’s begin with the definition of the word “pandemic.”  The definition of pandemic may vary from one source to another while one thing everyone agrees on is that the word describes the widespread occurrence of disease, in excess of what might normally be expected in a geographical region.

An interesting side note on the origin of the word “quarantine” that we’re using so frequently now.  In the 14th century cautious port authorities required ships arriving in Venice from plague infected ports to remain on anchor for 40 days before landing.  Or in Italian “quaranta giorni” – 40 days.

Beginning with the Covid-19 pandemic, we’re taking a short tour of the pandemics through the 20th and 21th centuries.

Corona Virus – Covid-19

In December 2019, Covid-19 began appearing in human beings in the Wuhan, China region.  The World Health Organization (WHO) declared Covid-19 a pandemic in March 2020. 

U.S. Current Statistics updated March 29, 2020:

  • Total cases:   122,653
  • Total deaths: 2,112
  • Jurisdictions reporting cases: 55 (50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Marianas, and US Virgin Islands)

HIV/AIDS Pandemic

Starting point – Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1976.  New treatments make HIV more manageable and those infected often lead productive lives.  Between 2005 and 2012 the global deaths have dropped from 2/2 million to 1/6 million.

  • Total deaths:             36 million since 1981

Flu Pandemic

Known and the “Hong King Flu,” the first reported case was on July 13, 1968.  In 17 days, outbreaks were reported in Singapore and Vietnam.  In three months, this flu spread to the Philippines, India, Australia, Europe, and the U.S. 

  • Total deaths: 1 million

Asian Flu

Originating in China in 1956 and lasted until 1958, the Asian Flu was Influenza A of the H2N2 subtype.  Traveling from Guizhou, China to Singapore, Hong Kong, and the U.S.

  • Total deaths: 2 million, 69,800 in the U.S. alone.

Flu Pandemic

From 1918 to 1920 a deadly form of influenza swept around the globe.  More than 500 million people were infected.  This virus attacked completely healthy young adults, leaving children and people with weaker immune systems alive. 

  • Total deaths: 20 – 50 million

Sixth Cholera Pandemic

Originating in India in 1910, the Sixth Cholera Pandemic was the last American outbreak.  American health authorities isolated the infected and only 11 deaths occurred in the U.S.

  • Total deaths: 800,000+

Flu Pandemic

Recent discoveries have found that the cause of this outbreak to be Influenza A virus subtype H3N8.  In May 1889 in three diverse areas of the world - Central Asia, Canada, and Greenland - had the first cases.  Rapid population growth was a major reason for the outbreak’s spread across the globe. 

  • Total deaths: 1 million

Dean and Draper

The one clear message here is that together we can beat this pandemic.  Sure, we’re keeping our social distance, finding new ways to communicate, and working from home in the midst of the whole family.  It’s different and another one of my curiosities is how will these changes impact us on the other side of the pandemic. 

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Sources:  MPHOnline, Wikipedia, CNBC, CDC, Visual Capitalist