Epidemics and pandemics have the potential to kill millions of people – and they actually have. Long ago, deadly outbreaks known as the "Black Death", the "Plague of Justinian", and the "Spanish flu" ravaged countries, empires, and whole continents. Some of these diseases are still present around the globe. Others have become a thing of the past.
Discover how these ancient and not-so-distant outbreaks from past centuries differ from the modern-day SARS, MERS, and coronavirus pandemics. Listen to our new series "Outbreak: The Deadliest Epidemics in Human History" this week on Radio Sputnik.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been wreaking havoc on Italy, a European country particularly hard-hit by the novel respiratory disease that has killed thousands, with its medical system overwhelmed and small businesses devastated.
As the US has currently logged more COVID-19 cases than any other country, China has ceased reporting new instances of the disease, lifting the 76-day lockdown of its city of Wuhan, which was once the epicenter of the pandemic.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was diagnosed with the coronavirus, was transferred from intensive care to a regular ward on Thursday evening.
Palestinian health officials have been forced to halt COVID-19 novel coronavirus testing in the Gaza Strip after the area health ministry’s test kit stocks ran dry earlier this week.
As Europe has become the epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic, with almost 700,000 confirmed cases, and Italy particularly hard-hit, the pandemic has become a stress-test for EU unity, as stark differences have thwarted an agreement on more support for coronavirus-hit economies, with talks suspended.
The United States death toll from COVID-19 now ranks second globally, according to Johns Hopkins University's data, as frontline health workers have been struggling with shortages of medical supplies while governors across the country have slammed the Federal response to the novel coronavirus.
Since the 1970s, the Ebola virus has been killing thousands of people, primarily in Africa. Despite the relatively low death toll numbers, Ebola has resulted in very high mortality rates in recent decades.
In 2009-2010, more than a quarter of a million people fell victim to the swine flu – a previously unknown strain of influenza that might have infected up to 21% of the planet’s population.
In 1918-1920, amid one of the deadliest armed conflicts in human history, over half a billion people contracted the Spanish flu – an unusually dangerous influenza strain that claimed more lives than all WWI battles combined.
An outbreak of an incurable disease severely damaged the mighty Byzantine Empire, killing millions of people around the Mediterranean. Its name was the Plague of Justinian and it hit Constantinople in 541 AD.