Top 7 Deadliest Diseases in Human History

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Top 7 Deadliest Diseases in Human History

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Advances in technology and medicine have helped us eradicate some of the most devastating diseases the world has ever seen and challenged mankind for centuries. Medical discoveries and inventions and access to proper care have significantly reduced the death rates caused by diseases throughout the years. From 1,000 people per minute, it was reported that deaths declined to just more than 100 every minute, unlike in the past when diseased killed people by the millions. Let’s examine some of the deadliest diseases in human history.


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The Black Death: Bubonic Plague

From 1346 to 1353, the Black Death ravaged most of Europe and Eurasia, killing over 50 million people. Later reports showed that more than 60 percent of Europe’s population was wiped out. It was believed that the plague started in the steppes of Central Asia where huge numbers of rodents live. The plague was caused by infected fleas that live on small animals, such as squirrels, marmots, gerbils, and rats. However, these fleas turned to humans after the animals died. In just three to five days, people started to have fever, headache, and chills.


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Previous studies suggested that the origins of smallpox first appeared around 10,000 BC. Caused by the variola virus, smallpox was transmitted through direct contact with an infected person or infected bodily fluids. Before it was completely eradicated, this disease claimed an estimated 500 million lives. According to an article by the BBC, a British public service broadcaster, the World Health Organization reported that the last known natural case of smallpox was in Somalia in 1977.


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Avian Influenza

Also known as bird flu, avian influenza was first recorded in Italy in 1878. It was reported that the annual global attack rate of the disease is an estimated 5 to 10 percent in adults and 20 to 30 percent in children. Every year, an estimated three to five million cases of avian influenza is recorded, leading to about 250,000 to 500,000 deaths annually. The most notorious outbreak was recorded in 1918. It was believed to have killed more people than World War One.


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This disease derived its name from the Ebola River in the Republic of the Congo where it was discovered. It was reported that its victims suffer fevers, muscle weakness, and other symptoms that progress to severe bleeding. According to an article by, an online pharmaceutical encyclopedia that provides drug information for consumers and healthcare professionals primarily in the US, the most significant outbreak of Ebola occurred from 2014 to 2016. It infected 28,616 people and killed 11,310.


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WHO reported that malaria continues to threaten half of the world’s population and is present in almost 100 countries even today. In 2012, it infected about 207 million people, causing over 627,000 deaths, mostly in children under the age of five. Malaria is transmitted through the bite of mosquitoes and is both preventable and treatable.


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Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

In 2003, SARS generated widespread panic across the globe. When it infected, the symptoms will only begin to appear in 2 to 10 days. Some of the signs include headache, high fever, body aches, and sometimes diarrhea. The main symptom of concern was the severe breathing difficulties associated with the disease. WHO reported that 774 people died out of the 8,098 infected people by the end of 2013. 


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This disease is caused by slow-growing bacteria that mainly affects people living in low-lying, humid, tropical, and subtropical areas. Usually, the symptoms start as numbness or loss of feeling in a defined area of skin. Most of the time, it can progress, ranging from mild, indeterminate hypopigmented skin lesions to blindness, deformity. and severe facial disfigurement. Although leprosy is not contagious, people suffering from this disease have been feared and misunderstood throughout history. A lot of people back then believed that this is a curse or a punishment from God.




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