Top 12 Pandemics Throughout World History

The world was least prepared when the coronavirus pandemic hit, being turned upside down. However, did you know that it is not the worst pandemic the world has experienced? In fact, the world has seen much worse. Read on to learn about the top 12 pandemics the world has survived.

12. Sixth Cholera Pandemic

Top 10 Pandemics

Cholera came to prominence in the 19th century with 7 lethal pandemics starting in 1817. The 6th Cholera pandemic started in India in 1899 and ended in 1923. That’s a good 24 years. This pandemic resulted in 850,000 deaths. It spread across Russia and Northern Africa, followed by the Arab countries, along with Eastern Europe. The United States was ahead of the game, and by responding early to the pandemic, it was able to take measures that resulted in just 10 deaths.

11. Third Cholera Pandemic

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Source: Wikipedia

This third Cholera pandemic was the deadliest stretching from 1852 to 1859 and devastating 5 continents. This pandemic resulted in the death of 1 million people. It’s origin was discovered in London by mapping cases that lead back to contaminated water from a public well.

10. The Russian Flu Pandemic

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Source: NIH

The Russian Flu pandemic was caused by the Influenza virus and led to the death of 1 million people. This wave took place in 1889 originating in the city of Bukhara in the Russian Empire with Central Asia the hardest hit. The infection was to quick to spread to all climates and terrains due to modern transportation by rail and sea. The pandemic ended in 1890, lasting one year.

9. 1968 Flu Pandemic

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Source: Staten Island Advance

This flu pandemic began in 1968 and killed 1 million people with the first incident recorded in Hong Kong. It originated from the H2N2 virus and rapidly spread to other parts of the world. Asia and Singapore were badly hit first with cases reported in the USA and Europe soon after.

8. Asian Flu

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KXKDRK Asian flu in Sweden 1957 (2)

The Asian Flu occurred in 1956, with the first case recorded in Guizhou, China. It killed a total of 2 million people. Later, it spread to Asia and North America. Hong Kong also experienced this disease and because of the lack of containment, the death toll rose very quickly. The pandemic lasted for 2 years finally ending in 1958.

7. COVID-19 Pandemic

Source: Asian Reporter

The prevailing pandemic around the world commonly known as Corona Virus is also called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. The respiratory illness started in Wuhan, China. It was first officially reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on December 31, 2019, and was officially declared a worldwide pandemic in March 2020. Recent estimates show well over 100 million reported cases and over 2.5 million deaths.

6. Antonine Plague

Source: All that’s interesting

The Antonine Plague occurred a long time ago, in 165 AD. It resulted in deaths totaling 5 million and thus makes it to our list of top 10 pandemics. Greece, Egypt, and Italy were the hardest hit regions. The plague did spread to Asia but it did not cause as much damage. The plague was unique because it influenced the power of the Roman Empire as it killed almost all of its soldiers. Experts have been unable to determine the exact cause of the disease.

5. Justinian Plague

Source: Devastating Disasters

This Justinian plague occurred a couple of centuries after the Antonine plague and resulted in the deaths of 25 million people. It broke out in 541 AD and the Mediterranean regions were the worst hit. Byzantine was also affected. Constantinople area succumbed to the plague, with so many people losing their lives each year. This was a deadly pandemic that killed almost 5,000 people in any given day.


Source: REUTERS/Ajay Verma

Since the first outbreak in the early 1980s, the deadly HIV virus has infected over 70 million people and killed over 30 million. While new HIV infections are declining due to improved testing and prevention, there were close to 1 million deaths in 2017 compared to almost 2 million deaths at the 2004 peak.

3. Spanish Flu

Source: Wikipedia

The Spanish Flu occurred between 1918 and 1920 and killed close to 50 million people. Almost 30 million people died within 6 months. The mortality rate was 20% killing even those with a strong immune system. While most influenza outbreaks affect the very young and the very old to a greater degree, the Spanish flu pandemic resulted in a much higher mortality rate for young adults. It infected 600 million people around the globe.

2. Black Death

Source: History

This is the worst pandemic on our list over a time span from 1346 to 1353 killing a total of 200 million people. Some people claim it wiped out two thirds of the world’s population. It originated from rats and spread across Africa, Europe, and Asia with continued outbreaks of the plague lasting until the early 19th century.

1. Smallpox

Source: Passport Health

Smallpox has been around for thousands of years, with medical writings from India in 1500 BC. Smallpox is estimated to have killed 300 million people in the 20th century alone making it the worst pandemic in our known human history. Almost 1 in 3 patients falling to Smallpox died while survivors were left with scars and blindness. Thankfully, Smallpox has been eradicated since 1977 due to vaccines.

Now you know the world has been through so much worse. After going through the Top 10 Pandemics we realize, there is no need to worry about the current pandemic.