The Top 5 Worst Disease Epidemics in History

  Epidemic Location Year Estimated Number of Deaths
1 Black Death Europe/Asia/Middle East 1347 - 1354 200 million+
2 Influenza
(Spanish Flu)
Worldwide 1918 - 1920 100 million+
3 AIDS Worldwide 1981 - present 25 million+
4 Bubonic Plague
(Third Pandemic)
India 1896 - 1959 12 million+
5 Typhus Eastern Europe 1914 - 1915 3 million+
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  1. The Black Death is considered to be one of the worst natural disasters in history. In 1347 A.D., the great plague swept over Europe, ravaged cities causing widespread hysteria and death. One third of the population of Europe died. The Black Death erupted in the Gobi Desert in the late 1320s and the primary carriers transmitting this disease were oriental rat fleas carried on the back of black rats. China's population dropped from around 125 million to 90 million over the course of the 14th century due to the plague.
  2. The "Spanish" flu pandemic of 1918 and 1919 caused the deaths of 20-50 million people worldwide including up to 675,000 in the US. While only about 1% of those infected with the virus died, it became one of the deadliest viruses ever known to man. Although called the "Spanish" Flu, this avian virus was thought to have originated in the United States. The 1918 flu has been described as capable of sickening and killing a person on the same day. The virus is an H1N1 type A influenza. Symptoms of infection were similar to, but more severe than typical, seasonal flu.
  3. When the 1918 Spanish flu disappeared, no samples of the virus were retained for scientific study. In 1997, however, scientists recovered fragments of the virus's RNA genome from the preserved remains of infected people. The genome of the flu virus is composed of 8 RNA segments. Recently, scientists were able to remake 1918 flu using a technique called reverse genetics
  4. Plague is an infectious disease of animals and humans caused by a bacterium named Yersinia pestis. Bubonic plague symptoms include: enlarged, tender lymph nodes, fever, chills and prostration. The mortality rate is 50-90% if untreated.
  5. Typhus is an infectious disease transmitted by the human body louse. The disease causes fever, prostration, head and body aches, and an extensive rash. Between 1918 and 1922, an epidemic of unprecedented scale engulfed Russia and her provinces. An estimated 25-30% of the population were infected, and some 3 million people died (this number could be more as no accurate records were kept).
Top 5 facts sources: a. The Black Death 1347-1350, b.CDC Plague Fact Sheet, c. Biological Agent Fact Sheet-191 8 (H1N1) Influenza A
Tags: Top 5 Worst, Death Statistics, Health Statistics

Sources:  Top 5 of Anything research 2016. Good info-graphic to be found here.

List Notes: Deaths are estimated as accurate historical records are hard to come by.
Worst Disease Epidemics in History

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