Visualization of pandemics

The History of Pandemics by Death TollAre we overreacting to the current pandemic? If not, what is the “optimal level” of precautions we should be taking to minimize the spread of any given disease? According to Nicholas LePan (via Visual Capitalist): “Scientists use a basic measure to track the infectiousness of a disease called the reproduction number — also known as R0 or ‘R naught’. This number tells us how many susceptible people, on average, each sick person will in turn infect.” Notice that Measles tops the list, being the most contagious with a R0 range of 12-18. This means a single person can infect, on average, 12 to 18 people in an unvaccinated population. Also, below the fold you will find a comprehensive table describing some of the major pandemics that have occurred in world history:

Name Time period Type / Pre-human host Death toll
Antonine Plague 165-180 Believed to be either smallpox or measles 5M
Japanese smallpox epidemic 735-737 Variola major virus 1M
Plague of Justinian 541-542 Yersinia pestis bacteria / Rats, fleas 30-50M
Black Death 1347-1351 Yersinia pestis bacteria / Rats, fleas 200M
New World Smallpox Outbreak 1520 – onwards Variola major virus 56M
Great Plague of London 1665 Yersinia pestis bacteria / Rats, fleas 100,000
Italian plague 1629-1631 Yersinia pestis bacteria / Rats, fleas 1M
Cholera Pandemics 1-6 1817-1923 V. cholerae bacteria 1M+
Third Plague 1885 Yersinia pestis bacteria / Rats, fleas 12M (China and India)
Yellow Fever Late 1800s Virus / Mosquitoes 100,000-150,000 (U.S.)
Russian Flu 1889-1890 Believed to be H2N2 (avian origin) 1M
Spanish Flu 1918-1919 H1N1 virus / Pigs 40-50M
Asian Flu 1957-1958 H2N2 virus 1.1M
Hong Kong Flu 1968-1970 H3N2 virus 1M
HIV/AIDS 1981-present Virus / Chimpanzees 25-35M
Swine Flu 2009-2010 H1N1 virus / Pigs 200,000
SARS 2002-2003 Coronavirus / Bats, Civets 770
Ebola 2014-2016 Ebolavirus / Wild animals 11,000
MERS 2015-Present Coronavirus / Bats, camels 850
COVID-19 2019-Present Coronavirus – Unknown (possibly pangolins) 9,800 (as of Mar 19, 2020)

Note: Many of the death toll numbers listed in the table above are “guesstimates” based on available research.

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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