The news of deadly diseases is always alarming. | Photo credit: iStock Images
- Mankind has made great strides in medicine, especially antibiotics and vaccines, but diseases plague the species.
- We have collected information from various reliable sources such as the US-CDC, Mayo Clinic, Drugs.com, Live Science, and WHO.
- Here is a compilation of seven of the deadliest diseases – using the number they infected as a measure.
Life on Earth – it is assumed – began as a single-celled organism. Over the next hundreds of millions of years, millions of life forms have evolved. Viruses and bacteria are also abundant on the planet. Viruses are microscopic parasites, usually much smaller than bacteria. They do not have the ability to thrive and reproduce outside of a host body. Viruses are comparatively much smaller than bacteria. Poliovirus, for example, is 30 nm in diameter, about 10,000 times smaller than a grain of salt, notes a report by LiveScience.com.
Humans fought viruses long before our species even evolved into its modern form. For some viral diseases, vaccines and antiviral drugs have helped us prevent infections from spreading widely and have helped sick people recover.
Do we have medicine to treat a patient infected with any virus or bacteria? Not yet. We may have been able to send probes to the Moon and to Mars, we are still a long way from beating viruses and bacteria. Several viruses have passed from animals to humans over the past decades, causing large epidemics and killing thousands of people. Several bacteria have evolved to resist the antibiotics that humans continue to invent to weaken or kill bacterial strains.
Here are the 7 worst fatal diseases in human history:
This list is based on how many people they’ve killed and whether they’re a growing threat.)
- The black plague: bubonic plague: Drugs.com – (a US-based website whose state mission is to be the Internet’s most trusted resource for drug and health information by providing the most accurate and most accurate drug information updated on the Internet) – lists bubonic plague as the number one deadly disease, perhaps based solely on the number of people it killed almost less than a hundred years ago. The Black Death ravaged most of Europe and the Mediterranean from 1346 to 1353. More than 50 million people died, more than 60% of the European population at the time. The steppes of Central Asia, a vast area of grassland that is home to a huge rodent population considered to be the largest reservoir of plague in the world, is believed to be the place of origin of this plague. Plague is mainly transmitted by the bite of a flea infected with the bacteria responsible for plague, Yersinia pestis. When there is an epidemic among animals such as rats, gerbils, groundhogs and squirrels, they succumb to the infection and die. Hungry fleas that feed on these dead or alive animals turn to humans, and within three to five days of a bite, fever, headache, chills, and weakness develop. Without prompt antibiotic treatment, 3 in 10 (sometimes all 10) infected people die. Even though there are plague vaccines, outbreaks of plague still exist in Africa, North and South America, and Asia. Between 2010 and 2015, 3,248 cases of plague were reported worldwide, including 584 deaths. Most cases have occurred in Madagascar, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Peru, where the plague is endemic.
- Devi ka Prakop or smallpox: This caused by the smallpox virus ONLY has humans as natural hosts and transmission depends on direct contact with an infected person or infected body fluids, bedding or clothing. Drugs.com states that the origins of smallpox may have been around 10,000 BC. Telltale marks have been found on the mummified remains of the great Egyptian pharaoh Ramses V (dated 1156 BC) and the disease is described in ancient Sanskrit texts. An infected person develops small boils and rashes inside the mouth, on the skin, and soon take the form of raised volcanic pustules filled with a thick, opaque liquid. Those who survive often end up with pitted scars on the skin. In the 18th century, more than four Lakh people died each year in Europe from smallpox. It would kill about 3 in 10 infected people, 8 to 9 in 10 infected adults, and of those who survived, about a third went blind. In the late 1700s, at least two people took action by observing that milkmaids who had smallpox never contracted smallpox. In 1796, Dr Edward Jenner used material from a young milkmaid infected with smallpox to protect an 8-year-old boy. Thanks to a massive, global mass vaccination program that began in 1967, smallpox has been successfully eradicated around the world.
- Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS): SARS generated widespread panic in 2003 and was caused by a previously unknown coronavirus (SARS-CoV-1) – the same family of viruses that causes COVID-19 that is believed to have evolved in Wuhan – in China. Besides the regular but severe flu-like symptoms, the main symptom of concern was the severe breathing difficulties associated with SARS, and almost all of those infected developed pneumonia. At the end of 2003, 774 people had died out of the 8,098 infected people notified to the WHO. Researchers identified the most likely source as wild Chinese bats that had been captured and released to the market. In 12 months, SARS spread to more than 20 countries, but it was contained thanks to public health measures. Then the world encountered Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which is another coronavirus infection that can be fatal. The majority of cases have been reported in Saudi Arabia and are linked to contact with camels, their droppings, milk or meat. MERS can cause severe respiratory and kidney failure. SARS and MERS put the world into a false sense of complacency where it was assumed that epidemics could be brought under control before they took on pandemic proportions. At the end of 2019, beginning of 2020, SARS-CoV-2 originated in Wuhan, China and although the WHO – with the insistence of China continuing to say that it is just another virus of the “flu” is a scourge that refuses to be extinguished. This has not only forced unprecedented closures around the world, but its social and economic impacts will be felt for years to come.
- Avian influenza or avian influenza: Bird flu is common and several major epidemics have occurred sporadically around the world since the disease was first reported in Italy in 1878. It was not until 1955 that the virus causing bird flu was discovered to be a virus. type A. Globally, 862 cases of human infection with avian influenza A (H5N1) have been reported in 17 countries from January 2003 to June 17, 2021. More than half of those infected have died. The last reported case dates back to October 31, 2020 in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. H7N9 and H5N1 from avian influenza are the other strains of avian influenza or avian influenza.
- Ebola fever: According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a rare and fatal disease in humans and non-human primates. The viruses that cause EVD are mainly found in sub-Saharan Africa. People can get Ebola virus disease through direct contact with an infected animal (bat or non-human primate) or a sick or dead person infected with Ebola virus. Drugs.com states that Ebola is a serious, often fatal disease (death rates average 50%) caused by the Ebola filovirus. The virus is easily spread to humans and from human to human. The largest Ebola outbreak in recorded history occurred from 2014 to 2016, mainly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. In December 2019, Ervebo (Zaire Ebola vaccine, live) was approved for adults over 18 years of age.
- Meadow: Leprosy is a chronic debilitating disease caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae (M. Laprae). Six of the 16 countries reporting more than 1,000 leprosy cases per year are in the WHO South-East Asia Region. Although not very contagious, leprosy has been feared and poorly understood throughout its history. Originally seen as a curse or punishment from God, people with leprosy were stigmatized, forced to wear special clothes or ring bells to warn others when they approached. Leprosy is still prevalent today, but is generally called Hansen’s disease. Globally, nearly 200,000 cases of Hansen’s disease are reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) each year, and it primarily affects people living in low-lying, humid, tropical and subtropical areas near the equator. Drug treatment for leprosy is prolonged and complicated and usually involves a combination of antibiotics. Although leprosy is curable, the deformities and nerve damage that occur before treatment is started are often irreversible.
- Polio: According to Mayo ClinicAlthough polio can cause paralysis and death, the majority of people infected with the virus do not get sick and do not know they have been infected. Adults who have been vaccinated and are planning to travel to an area where polio is rife should be given a booster dose of inactivated polio vaccine (IPV). Immunity after a booster lasts a lifetime. Since 1988, when the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was launched. Today, only two polio endemic countries remain, Afghanistan and Pakistan, as Nigeria recorded the last case of wild poliovirus type 1 transmission in September 2018. Oral polio vaccine (OPV) ) is no longer used as a polio vaccine in the United States, although several overseas countries still use it. IPV is now the preferred vaccine.
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