Although over 200 countries and territories around the world are facing COVID-19, the Coronavirus is just the most recent pandemic in a history littered with infectious catastrophes

Northern Virginia Magazine

According to Intermountain Healthcare, a pandemic occurs when a disease affects a large number of people within a population and spreads over multiple countries or continents. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that COVID-19 abided by these criteria, deeming the Coronavirus the most recent pandemic in a history littered with these catastrophes. ~

According to, infectious diseases have had major effects on human civilizations for centuries, and often occurred due to extended trading routes bringing infectious diseases to “large numbers of people living in close proximity to each other and to animals, often with poor sanitation and nutrition.” ~

Three of the deadliest plagues in history were caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, better known as the Plague. One of the first major pandemics of this bacterium was the Plague of Justinian which arrived in Constantinople in 541 CE. Said to have spread from plague-ridden fleas and rats, the disease killed around half of the world’s population – an estimated 30 to 50 million people. The next Plague-induced pandemic was the Black Death, which hit Europe around 1347, and killed approximately ⅔ of all Europeans – 200 million people – in just four years. The word quarantino was coined during the Black Plague to describe the practice of slowing the spread of the disease through isolationism. ~

The next major pandemic – Smallpox – was native to Europe, Asia and Arabia for centuries, and killed approximately 3/10 people each year. However, its introduction to the new world had the most dramatic effect on the indigineous peoples – killing 90-95% of their population. In the 18th century, smallpox became the first virus to be cured using a vaccine. ~

In the early to mid 19th century, Cholera tore through Europe and killed tens of thousands in England. Predominantly contained by improving the sanitation of England’s drinking water, the Cholera pandemic introduced a global effort to improve urban sanitation and protect drinking water from contaminants. ~

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