NATIONAL NEWS - Pandemics and epidemics are as old as human history itself.
Though not always flu-related, disease outbreaks have ravaged humanity for centuries and have sometimes even caused whole civilisations to disappear.
According to Wikipedia, there have been about nine influenza pandemics during the last 300 years.
Archaeologists have found evidence of a devastating epidemic as early as 5 000 years ago. All the inhabitants of two villages in northeastern China were wiped out so quickly that there was no time for proper burials. The bodies were piled in one house and burnt. The sites which are now called Hamin Mangha and Miaozigou were never inhabited again.
Around 430BC as many as 100 000 Athenians were wiped out by a disease which some scholars believe could have been ebola or typhoid fever. Smallpox may have killed as many as
5 million citizens of the Roman empire around 165-180 AD. The start of the decline of the Byzantine Empire was marked by bubonic plague in 541-542 AD, in which as many as 5 000 people a day are believed to have died.
The Black Death of 1346-1353 is well-known. It was caused by a strain of a bacterium that is extinct today and was spread by fleas on infected rodents. Some estimates reckon more than half of Europe's population was wiped out. This changed the course of Europe's history and brought about the end of the system of serfdom. Studies suggest that surviving workers had better access to meat and higher-quality bread. The lack of cheap labour may also have contributed to technological innovation.
In 1545-1548, 15 million inhabitants of Mexico and Central America succumbed to a form of enteric fever. A recent study on the DNA of skeletons found they died of a form of salmonella.
After the dawn of the industrial age, improved transport made it easier for diseases to span the globe.
One such instance is the flu pandemic of 1889 which started in Russia. It took just five weeks to reach its peak and one million people lost their lives.
The polio epidemic which started in New York in 1916, eventually killed more than half a million people per year worldwide before effective vaccines were developed in 1954.
The world also saw the so-called Spanish Flu of 1918 (which did not originate in Spain), Asian flu in 1957, bird flu in the late 1990s and swine flu in 2009.
West-Africa was ravaged by the ebola virus, which causes flu-like symptoms, between 2014 and 2016.
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