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Trivia Top 10 Most Deadly Diseases

Discussion in 'Traditions & Beliefs' started by Jeanh, Aug 5, 2015.

  1. Humans have never been strangers to disease. Viruses and bacteria have been the cause of an innumerable amount of deaths throughout our history; more so than all wars combined.

    In our early history an outbreak of a disease would wipe out a small group, or tribe , but as the human population bloomed and gathered in cities an epidemic could reach out to a much higher number of people, with devastating results. Other habits that humans have that help to cultivate a scenario that promotes the damage of epidemics include domesticating animals, which come with their own set of microbes; storing food, which attracts scavenging creatures; and the construction of well and ditches to store water, which allows disease carrying mosquitoes to thrive.

    Prepare yourself – today you will see which are the 10 worst, most horrifying epidemics in human history.

    10. Smallpox

    Before the Americas were colonised by the European explorers there were already an estimated 100 million people living there. The Incas and the Aztecs are examples of native colonies living in the Americas that had constructed cities, but had not been living in them long enough for many diseases to be developed. They were doomed as soon as the Europeans arrived. The explorers brought many things over, one of them a host of deadly diseases for which the native people had no immunity or defence.

    Smallpox was the most damaging of these diseases, caused by the Variola virus. This virus has been with the human race for thousands of years with the most common type of it having a mortality rate as high as 30% It causes high fevers, rashes that develop from fluid-filled sacks to permanent scars and crippling body aches. The disease can spread through direct contact with an infected person’s skin, by fluids, or even airborne in close environments.

    A vaccine was created in 1769. Even though, deaths were still widespread. As recently as 1967 the virus has still managed to kill 2 million people worldwide.

    9. The Spanish Flu
    Called various different names: Spanish flu, the Great Influenza or the flu of 1918. Whatever name it takes it has taken the lives of somewhere between 50 and 100 million people. Many actually consider this as the worst pandemic in recorded human history.


    Influenza is a tricky virus due to how rapidly it mutates into new forms. This strain, the H1N1 avian influenza A virus moved from birds to humans in the American Midwest just before the outbreak occurred. Just as the Aztecs were not prepared for Smallpox – the world was not prepared for this.

    The Spanish Flu, of which the name derived from the 8 million deaths it caused in Spain, carried the normal influenza symptoms; fever, nausea, aches, and diarrhea. Victims would also frequently gain black spots all over their cheeks. Large scale people movement during the end of World War 1 was a key factor in making this epidemic reach devastating levels

    8. The Black Death
    Very few diseases in history have reached the level of notoriety as the Black Death. Synonomous with horror, misery, and doom, this illness is as bad as they come. The Black Death is considered to be the first true pandemic. It wiped out half of Europe’s population in 1348 and also decimated large portions of China and India. The disease spread along trade routes, and war movements, completely altering class structure, global politics and the nature of society itself.


    The Black Death has always been regarded as a plague travelling both in its bubonic form upon the fleas of rats and in its pneumonic form through the air. However, recent studies have suggested that is could be possibly incorrect! Some scientists are now saying that the Black Death may been a hemorrhagic virus that is similar to ebola. These illnesses cause massive blood loss, and scientists continue to study the remains of suspected plague victims in the hope of uncovering the truth about this deadly disease.

    If the Black Death was the plague, then it is still around today. It is an illness caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis and is found in impoverished, rat infested areas. Thanks to modern medicine the disease is easily treatable in early stages, saving patients from the horrible symptoms which include swollen lymph glands, fever, cough, bloody sputum and difficulty with breathing.

    7. Malaria
    Malaria has affected human populations for over 4,000 years – ancient Greek writers have noted about its ravaging effects. Even back then, scientists made the crucial link between the illness and the still waters in which mosquitoes breed. Malaria is caused by four different species of Plasmodium microbes that are common to mosquitoes and humans. When the infected mosquitoes bite a human, they pass on these microbes. Once inside the blood, the microbes grow within red blood cells – this destroys them. The symptoms can vary quite drastically – from mild, to sometimes deadly. They include fever, sweating, muscle pains and chills.


    Wartime soldiers in the past often encountered huge problems with malaria. For example, in the American Civil War 1,316,000 men suffered from the illness and over 10,000 of them died. Another example is during World War 1 where for 3 years British, French and German forces were immobilised for 3 years!

    The United States attempted to irradicate malaria by using the insecticide Dichloro-diphenyl-trichorethane (DDT) and followed this up with preventive methods. The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared malaria eradicated within the US – but results have been mixed worldwide due to politics, cost and war.

    Malaria continues to pose a problem in much of the world, in particularly sub-Saharan Africa. Each year a massive 350-500 million cases of malaria occur in the region. Half a million of these cases will result in death.

    6. Tuberculosis
    Tuberculosis has plagued human populations through recorded history. Ancient manuscripts have detailed the way in which its victims die, and even DNA evidence of the disease was discovered in Egyptian mummies. It is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis and spreads airborne from person to person. The bacteria targets the lungs causing chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever and coughing fits of blood. In extreme causes the bacteria can also affect the brain, kidneys or spine.


    in the 1600s a TB epidemic referred to as the Great White Plague began and continued for 200 years – killing 1 in 7 infected people. Even as recent as the end of the 19th century 10% of all U.S deaths were due to tuberculosis.

    “The wasting disease” finally had a cure in the years proceeding 1944 after doctors developed the streptomycin antibiotic. Even with modern cures, tuberculosis continues to infect approximately 8 million people per year, killing 2 million of these. The disease made a come back in 1990s, linked with the weakened immune systems of AIDS sufferers.

    5. Cholera

    India has had problems with cholera since ancient times but it is only in the 19th century that the rest of the world had to deal with it. It was then that traders inadvertently transferred the deadly virus back into cities in Europe, China, Japan, the Middle East and North Africa. A total of 6 cholera pandemics were transferred, the death toll in the millions.


    Cholera is caused by an intestinal bacteria called Vibrio cholerae. Most immune systems can fight well against cholera, but in approximately 5 percent of sufferers it can cause extremely severe vomiting, diarrhoea and leg cramps – this leads to dehydration and shock and ultimately death. Cholera spreads through contaminated food and water supplies, but also can be transferred through close physical contact.

    Doctors claimed back in the 1800s that the disease was caused due to “bad air” – so they pushed for cleaner sewage systems in major cities. This actually helped the problem, but this help was boosted when the link between cases and the contaminated drinking water was made.

    4. AIDS
    25 million people have been killed since AIDS emerged in the 1980s, creating a global pandemic. Recent statistics quote that there are 33.2 million people currently HIV-positive and 2.1 million people were killed by it just in 2007.


    Acquired immune deficiency sydrome (AIDS) is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and is transmitted from person to person via contact with blood, semen or other bodily fluids. The virus attacks the immune system, which opens up the body to attack from other infections (referred to as opportunistic infections) that otherwise would not have caused a problem. HIV develops into AIDS if the immune system of the patient degrades severely enough.

    3. Yellow Fever
    African slaves were imported to the Americas by Europeans, this brought over numerous new diseases. One of these diseases was yellow fever. The disease is also referred to as “yellow jack”, it destroyed colonies, farms and took large chunks out of major cities.


    When Napoleon, the French emperor, sent his army of 33,000 to North America, yellow fever killed 29,000 of his men. He was so surprised at the number of deaths that he decided that the area was not actually worth the risk of further losses. The Lousiana Purchase this occurred, with France selling the land to the United States in 1803.

    Yellow fever is similar to malaria in the sense that is spreads through infected mosquitoes. Typical symptoms of this include fever, chills, headache, back and muscle ache and bleeding. These symptoms can become very severe and then include kidney failure, liver failure or shock. Liver failure will cause a yellowing of the skin referred to as jaundice.

    Even with vaccination, better treatment procedures and mosquito management – epidemics of this deadly disease still occur in areas around the world such as South America or Africa.

    Scientists currently believe that the HIV virus made the leap from certain species of monkey or ape to humans somewhere in the middle of the 20th century. During the 1970s Africa’s population boomed and war, poverty and unemployment spread through urban areas. Out of this rose intravenous drug use and prostitution, two key methods in the spread of this disease. There is no cure as of yet for AIDS – but a certain cocktail of drugs can keep HIV from developing into AIDS. Other treatment can help with the opportunistic infections.

    2. Typhus
    Body lice are a common concern when you have large groups of people crammed together in filthy conditions. Dirty cities and encamped armies have often had to deal with these problems and the terrible bacteria that they carry. The minute microbe, Rickettsia prowazekii, causes one of the most awful and destructive infectious diseases the world has ever known: epidemic typhus.


    This disease has hunted people for centuries and was often referred in the past as “camp fever” or “war fever” due to how often it attacked encamped armies. During Europe’s Thirty Years War (1618-1648) a combination of typhus, plague and starvation claimed the lives of approximately 10 million people. Extreme outbreaks of typhus could dictate which army would win wars.

    Symptoms of this disease include appetite loss, malaise, headaches and rapid increases of temperature. This then progresses onto a full fever with chills and nausea also. If typhus continues untreated it can begin to affect the circulation of blood – this can cause gangrene, pneumonia and kidney failure. Further more, delirium, coma and cardiac failure. A horrible end.

    1. Polio
    Top of our list – Polio. A simply horrifying disease, researchers suspect that polio has been an epidemic in humans for millennia, paralysing and killing thousands of children. Even was recently as 1952 there was an estimated 58,000 cases just in the US with a third of these patients left paralysed. More than 3 thousand of these people died.


    The virus poliomyelitis is the cause of the disease, it attacks the human nervous system. It transfers through decal matter, commonly transferring onto others via contaminated water or food. The first symptoms of polio include headache, fatigue, fever, sickness, stiffness and painful limbs. On occasions, the disease can spread to the muscle which control breathing, this is often a deadly progression.

    Most frequently it affects children, this is the best time for a person to develop their primary infection to bolster their immune systems against the disease at a younger age. In the 18th century, sanitation improved across many countries worldwide. This limited the spread of the disease, which actually worked to reduce the natural immunity given through exposure at an early age. This means that more people were contacting the disease later on in life, which is when it is the most deadly. There is still no effective cure for polio, but the vaccine was optimised in the early 1950s and after that cases in most developed countries reduced greatly.
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