Worst Plagues in History Of Mankind


Germs- they’re everywhere, and they’re always
trying to kill you. Right now as you sit at your computer or watching
on your phone, all matter of deadly germs are crawling all over you- your hands, your
chest, your face, in your mouth… there’s nowhere they can’t reach. Right this second you have a 25% chance of
carrying deadly staphylococcus bacteria, of staph infection infamy. Luckily for you though much like your own
farts, your staph bacteria are generally harmless to you- but staph bacteria from another person
can give you a deadly infection. And if you’re wondering where it lives, well
that answer is pretty much everywhere, to include your skin, eye, nose, and mouth. Generally though it’s bacteria that doesn’t
normally live on the human body that’s deadly, and throughout history mankind has been decimated
by all forms of plagues- but what where the deadliest plagues in history? Native American Smallpox Back in the 15th century Europeans who weren’t
Vikings discovered the New World, and shortly after the discovery they made friends with
the local natives and nothing bad ever happened after that. Just kidding, Europeans very quickly got to
work on their favorite historical pastime- subjugating and brutalizing native populations. This time though they had some extra help
in the form of all manner of bacteria and viruses that Native Americans had never encountered
before. Back when healthcare consisted of draining
bad blood out and then dying to the resulting infection, smallpox killed about one in three
Europeans who got infected. Native Americans however had little to no
resistance to the disease, and thus when they made contact with Europeans the disease very
quickly decimated Native American society. It’s believed that between 1500 and 1900,
European diseases killed up to half of all Native Americans, and most of that was purely
by accident. It wasn’t until the 1800s that the US Cavalry
got the idea of handing out smallpox infected blankets to Native Americans who were stubbornly
settling on land the US had rightfully claimed thousands of years ago when man first arrived
to North America but forgot to tell everyone about. Cholera Pandemic Cholera is one of those diseases that just
never goes out of style, it’s a die hard classic, a real crowd pleaser, and to date there’s
been seven total cholera pandemics throughout human history. The deadliest however is considered to be
the third, which struck between 1852 and 1860. For thousands of years mankind paid little
attention to the quality of its drinking water, and for nearly all of human history literally
nobody saw a problem with having your sewage run right next to- or into- your drinking
water supply. This worked out great for all matter of diseases,
who took advantage of the terrible sanitation to wreak havoc on mankind. Cholera is one such disease, and during the
third outbreak it’s believed that it started its world comeback tour in India. With the Ganges river being one of the most
important in the world as far as human settlements are concerned, it has long been one of the
most polluted. In 2011 a report on the water quality of the
river revealed that the water contained 1.1 billion fecal bacteria per 100 milliliters-
that’s about half a million times the recommended bathing limit. Add to that the practice of cremating corpses
directly on the banks of the river and India’s huge population, of which a large amount believe
it is a sacred experience to bathe in the poop-filled river, and it’s little surprise
that cholera has frequently struck the region. During the third outbreak though Cholera first
struck in India, then spread to Afghanistan and slowly across to Russia- where it killed
an estimated 1 million people. From Russia it made its way to Europe and
Africa, finally landing on the shores of America. Antonine Plague Back in 165 AD Rome had about two hundred
good years left in her, and the plague that struck her from 165 to 180 AD is believed
to have hastened her downfall. Today nobody knows exactly what disease struck
the Romans, as back then doctors were just as likely to feed you mercury to cure your
cough or give you mercury for your back pain- seriously, those guys loved mercury and it’s
little surprise so many prominent Romans were crazier than a barrel of angry monkeys. With an estimated death toll of five million,
whatever plague struck the Romans, it was clearly devastating, and symptoms included
fever, diarrhea, and inflammation of the throat. In some cities up to one third of the population
succumbed to the plague, and today historians believe that the culprit was either measles
or smallpox. Luckily today we don’t have to worry about
either of those two devastating diseases thanks to vaccines- except yes we do because anti-vaxxers
have refused to vaccinate their children leading to modern outbreaks of diseases mankind had
all but eradicated. Third Bubonic Plague If Cholera is a classic, the bubonic plague
is a downright goldie oldie. If you’ve seen our previous episode on the
black death, you’ll know that this disease is caused by a nasty little bacteria who likes
to take over your lymph nodes and then literally makes your body kill you. In 1850 Chinese prospectors and entrepreneurs
flooded the western Yunnan region in search of minerals and ores. Soon the population had exploded to over seven
million, and this created the perfect conditions necessary for the plague to revisit humanity. Plague infected fleas were soon biting all
manner of people, acting as the primary vector between the yellow-breasted rat and humans. When Han Chinese and Hui Muslim miners got
into armed conflict over the mineral wealth of the area, the plague exploded onto the
scene. Thanks to the displacement of huge populations
due to armed conflict, the plague made its way east towards China’s shores. There it would kill 100,000 people in Hong
Kong, and 60,000 in Canton. Aboard trade ships, the disease made its way
to India, where it would go on to kill 10 million. Over the next thirty years it would kill another
12.5 million. On a bright note, the restrictive actions
of the British government in trying to contain the plague would foster much of the discontent
that would later lead to an Indian independence movement. Plague of Justinian Four hundred years after the Antonine Plague,
rats in a grain shipment from Egypt brought the deadly bubonic plague back to Europe. In 541 AD half of the population of Constantinople,
then the capital of the Western Roman Empire, died to the plague, and from there the disease
spread across Europe. Incredibly, historians believe that the bubonic
plague actually prevented the rise of a new Roman empire, as it weakened the Western Roman
empire so severely that it was unable to triumph over the Goths and reunite the Eastern Roman
Empire with the west into a new Roman empire. After killing between 25 and 100 million across
Europe and Asia, the plague once more faded, though it would return sporadically until
the last outbreak in 750 AD. As if killing hundreds of millions of people
throughout history wasn’t bad enough, we also have the bubonic plague to blame for the failure
of Constantinople to reunite the Roman empire, and there’s no telling what the world of today
might look like if a unified Rome had averted the dark ages. HIV/AIDS Ask anybody who grew up in the 80s what the
most feared acronym they ever heard was and they’ll tell you without hesitation: it’s
AIDS. A disease originating in Africa, it first
struck the civilized world in a major fashion in America, where it was initially identified
in homosexuals. This unfortunately led to the stereotype that
HIV or AIDS was only a gay disease, and thus a lack of safe sex techniques between heterosexuals
quickly led to the disease infecting millions around the world. Today 600 people a day contract HIV, and in
some parts of Africa as much as 15% of the population is infected. AS of 2017, 39 million people had already
died of HIV, out of 76.3 million who have been infected. Thanks to safe sex practices and education,
infection rates have finally slowed, and the world seems to be on the other side of the
peak of the HIV pandemic- though not by very far. New treatments offer ways to cope with the
disease and even prevent its outbreak from HIV into AIDS, but these treatments are expensive
and the populations that need them the most- poor third world individuals- simply can’t
afford them. A failure to treat these vulnerable populations
inevitably leads to infections across the rest of the world thanks to our modern interconnected
world. Standing for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome,
AIDS is a condition caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus- or HIV. AIDS can take years to manifest, but when
it does it is characterized by HIV’s aggressive attacks against the immune system, destroying
white blood cells and T-cells which help fight off infections. Your immune system is constantly working to
keep you healthy, and our environment is swarming with all matter of harmful bacteria, viruses,
and fungi which are looking to turn you into a snack. Without your immune system working properly,
AIDS leads to death from all matter of secondary infections, and unless treated early is almost
certainly fatal. Spanish Flu At the end of World War I Europe was in a
sorry state. The war had ravaged the countryside and displaced
millions of people. Food supplies were low and clean drinking
water was rare. Add to that the huge numbers of dead and the
concentration of wounded still being treated in makeshift hospitals, and you had conditions
ripe for a pandemic. Despite having nothing to do with Spain or
the Spanish, the Spanish flu struck soon after the end of the war, and appeared almost simultaneously
in Boston, USA, Brest, France, and Freetown, Sierra Leone. Thanks to air and ocean travel, the flu virus
spread around the world. Yet the flu virus was not a particularly different
strain of the same flu you might catch today- all flu viruses mutate over time, but despite
what people initially thought this was not some superbug. The poor sanitary conditions, the concentration
of wounded troops in massive field hospitals, and poor nutrition for wartime populations
had instead created a world just ripe for the flu to become truly deadly. The most at risk were the young and elderly,
but with so many combat wounded and malnourished civilians, the flu is thought to have killed
between 50 and 100 million. The Black Death To date there has been no epidemic more deadly
than the Black Death, or Bubonic plague- though it should be noted that the disease had struck
many times before it went blockbuster in 1347. Arriving from the plains of Central Asia where
climate change was forcing infected rodents into human population centers, the plague
quickly spread from Asia westwards towards Europe, leaving a trail of devastation in
its wake. Across the Islamic world the black death killed
millions after arriving in Egypt from Constantinople. All told, the outbreak killed between 75 to
200 million people, and it took humanity two whole centuries to recover the lost numbers. The disease inflamed major tensions across
various social groups, and shortly after the plague receded in 1353, major violence against
minorities in Europe exploded, as everybody from gypsies to jews were blamed for the seemingly
supernatural plague. On the bright side though, the plague killed
so many people that it created a massive labor shortage, and this left nobles without enough
peasants to work their lands. With the bargaining chips firmly on their
side, the peasantry was able to use the value of their labor to demand better wages and
living conditions, laying the foundations for many of the major labor movements that
would redefine European- and world- history in later centuries. Without the black plague and its deadly impact
on humanity, modern labor movements that brought us the two day weekend, sick days, paid vacation,
and other perks we enjoy and expect from jobs today may never have existed. Do you think we’re due for another major plague? How would you survive a major outbreak of
disease? Let us know in the comments! And as always if you enjoyed this video don’t
forget to Like, Share, and Subscribe for more great content- before we’re all dead.

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