With the recent outbreak of coronavirus, it might make you want to cancel that vacation to Asia or make you paranoid about opening that packet from AliExpress… But a quick review of the worst contagious diseases ever, might just make you relax a little…
Influenza is the original word for what we know as the flu. Hence the name in-FLU-enza. We all know the typical “flu” symptoms which spread in the same way as a common cold. However, much like “swine flu”, “bird flu” and now Coronavirus’ suspected “snake flu” some influenza viruses can jump between species.
Influenza rarely results in death in healthy adults, but nonetheless, still claims up to half a million lives every year.
According to studies, smallpox originated about 3,000 years ago in India or Egypt, before quickly becoming widespread. The Variola virus, which causes smallpox, killed as many as a third of those it infected and left others scarred and blinded. However since the 80’s the disease has been officially eradicated. All but a few samples…
3. The Plague
Also known as the Black Death, the bacterium carried by fleas, is still in circulation today, and was one of the worst pandemics in human history, famously wreaking havoc in 14th-century Europe, when it wiped out roughly a third of the population. It is best known as the bubonic plague, as it causes inflamed lymph nodes, or “buboes” and inflicts the symptoms of a strong flu, which if left untreated, can end the victim in just 10 days.
The contraction of Pneumonia is usually associated with going outside without your coat on. But this deadly lung infection is not caused from being cold, but is the result of a bacteria or fungal infection settling inside the lungs.
Despite being curable, Malaria still takes over half a million lives every year. A parasite carried by some blood-sucking mosquitoes is the main propagator. The victim experiences flu-like symptoms and a fever before the reaction leads to organ failure, coma and finally death. Attempts to eradicate the disease in the U.S. were unsuccessful although the transmission has been greatly reduced.
TB is a bacterium that one-third of the world’s population (that’s 2.6 billion people) currently carry. However only 5 to 10 percent of them become sick or infectious. The disease attacks the lungs and causes signature bloody coughs and weight loss which is why historically it was called “consumption”.
Now a very rare disease in the U.S. with only 2 fatalities a year, still causes over ten thousand yearly deaths in Africa and Asia. It is transmitted through the saliva of infected animals, most commonly dogs. The symptoms include a fear of water, violent movements and uncontrolled excitement, due to the swelling of the brain. If untreated the victim can die in just a week.
First discovered just 40 years ago, a Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) jumped from apes to humans and formed the devastating virus. HIV destroys part of the immune system, which makes the victim vulnerable to all sorts of common diseases, especially tuberculosis. There are currently 38 million people infected and developers are yet to find a cure.
During the 19th century there were six major pandemics of cholera, which spread from India and caused millions of fatalities worldwide. Cholera causes acute diarrhoea and, if left untreated, can kill within hours. It is contracted from eating food or water contaminated by infected faeces. Despite modern day sanitary standards, there are still 1 to 4 million people infected with Cholera every year.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses much like influenza. This new strain of pneumonia-like coronavirus has been traced back to a market place in Wuhan, China and is believed to have jumped to humans from a sick snake or bat. Despite China’s attempts to quarantine the area it has already spread to many countries including the U.S. There is no cure as of yet, but the CDC insists that most people should recover on their own.
What do you think about the new coronavirus threat? Are any of us safe?