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The History of Pandemics

How Are Viruses Spread?
H1N1 Flu/What is a Pandemic?
• The History of Pandemics
How to Minimize the Threat of Pandemic
What is the Math?

An epidemic is an abnormally high occurrence of a disease in a particular population or geographic area. On the other hand, a pandemic is a global epidemic that crosses international boundaries. For example, the bubonic plague epidemic (the “Black Plague”) was confined to Europe in the 1300s, while the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 spread to all parts of the world.

The Antonine Plague (165-180)
This pandemic is believed to have been smallpox or measles that was brought to Europe by soldiers returning from the Near East. It may have killed as many as 5 million, and during a second outbreak in the middle of the third century, it was rumored that 5000 people a day were dying in Rome.

Cholera
The first outbreak of cholera occurred in India in 1816, and it became a pandemic by spreading from Bengal, across India, and to China and the Caspian Sea. The second pandemic of cholera affected Europe and North America in the late 1820’s, and since then, there have been five other cholera pandemics. The seventh and most recent outbreak (1961-66) began in Indonesia and reached Bangladesh, India, and the Soviet Union.

The Spanish Flu Pandemic (1918)
The Spanish Flu of 1918 first appeared in Kansas. The first complaint was registered by the cook at the Fort Riley military base on March 11, 1918, followed by 107 additional patients before noon that same day. In the camp of 26,000 men, 1127 were infected, 46 fatally.

Men who carried the disease, believed now to have been transmitted from birds to humans, left Fort Riley to fight in World War I. They spread the flu at each stop, which led to a nearly-worldwide pandemic. The Spanish Flu claimed more lives than the fighting during World War I. Although estimates vary widely, more than 500,000 Americans died from the Spanish Flu; and worldwide, the death toll was between 10 and 100 million.

Asian Flu Pandemic (1957-58)
Unlike the virus that caused the 1918 pandemic, the 1957 Asian Flu pandemic virus was quickly identified, due to scientific advances. Vaccine production began shortly after the outbreak occurred in China, and a small supply of vaccines was available when the flu reached the U.S. Still, the virus spread quickly when school started in the fall, and nearly 70,000 Americans were killed; worldwide, the total reached 2 million.

During the 1957-1958 pandemic, a World Health Organization panel found that spread often followed public gatherings. They also observed that in many countries the pandemic broke out first in camps, army units and schools, suggesting that avoiding crowds may be important to controlling the spread.


 

How Are Viruses Spread?
H1N1 Flu/What is a Pandemic?
• The History of Pandemics
How to Minimize the Threat of Pandemic
What is the Math?


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