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Ten Worst Plaques In All Of History

Updated on August 27, 2014


Every year a new superbug gets announced that scientists and government are so afraid would be the big one that would cause over fifty percent of the world's population to die off. Although luckily, the last 'superbug' happened between the 1910-1920s, the fear is pretty rationalized when you look back at some of the major sicknesses that has a huge destruction rate.

Although with the increase of knowledge of preventative care as well as access to better medication, the chance of actually having an illness as destructive as the ones in the past is very low. The common cold kills more people on average than any of the 'superbugs' that have caused panic throughout the last fifty-sixty years.

So when going through this list is it important to remember that most if not of these instances happened in times where people did not have a good sanitation, preventative care, medication, and easy access to hospitals and medical centers.


#10-Moscow Plague

The plaque started in 1770 in a military hospital which killed over 81% of those who fell ill. By 1771 the plaque became an epidemic killing over 1/3 of the population in Mascow. Afraid of the plaque spreading to other Russian and Ukraine cities, the government declared a quarantine trapping everybody in Moscow inside and refusing to let everybody out except for the wealthy. For the poor who was still stuck inside the city, food and water storage and lack of goods started to take its troll. A riot soon broke out.

On Sept 15, 1771, the riots start when citizens broke through the military barriers and killed the archbishop as well as raid his wine cellar.The military swept and stop the riot but before they could, they have destroyed a church and two other quarantine areas. The riot stopped for a day before rising again on the 17th when it officially ended with three hundred citizens put on trial with the result being a death sentence.

The plaque stayed strong until the winter times when suddenly it stopped. It still took the city's military and officials over a year to get Moscow stable again.


#9-Marseille Plague

Starting in 1720, the plague had hit France and killed over 100,000 people in Marseille France and surrounding villages. The plague was brought over from Syria with the Grand-Saint-Antoine ship. The ship carrying cotton and other materials also brought over vermin who quickly spread the plague.The oldest and poorest neighborhoods were hit first and the wealthy left leaving the poor to suffer and die. The first cases seem to actually be of those who first handled the cotton due to hidden flies. Death was quick, some cases it took less as four hours. Soon people were quarantined in individual houses, hospitals closed down, doctors fled leaving family members to try to help those who were sick.

On September 4, 1790. Marseille was blockade to try and stop it from spreading.however it had already spread to neighborhood cities who in return declared a quarantine.. Within a year the plague went down to only one or two people dying due to the plague but there was a relapse in 1792 although it was short lived and did not have as many causalities as 1970.

#8 Antonine Plague

The death of the Roman empire.Starting at 165 AD and by 180 AD, 30% of the population would be killed off. It was suspected that Roman soldiers had caught and brought back either smallpox or measles although nobody really knows for sure.It was claimed the plague claimed the lives of Emperor Lucius Versus but it's name was given after the claiming the life of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. The plague was so bad that over 2,000 people died a day (that's 1/4 of infected which means 1/4 of those infected will die).

What that meant was that there was fewer soldiers to be in the military which caused issues because they were fighting against two different enemies. It further hurt them when more of their army was made from foreigners and barbarians than their own people. Due to this, more and more enemies were allowed access to the empire due to family members in the army letting them pass by. This ended up led to a raid that officially destroyed the stronghold of the empire.

The plague also caused an issue do to a decline of workable bodies which hurt the empire economically and lea to a decline of trading goods. So the plague was one defining moment that let the empire fell however it wasn't the only issue that caused it. It was just one factor out of many but it was the one that made everything go out of control and caused the collapse to happen.

#7-Athens Plague

Although some historians do not believe there was a plague in Athens this is one of the earliest plagues reported. The Athens Plague happened in 430 BC.At the time they were under siege from Sparta and almost everybody in Athens were infected but only 33% of the total population would end up dying from this bug. The plague lasted two years but popped up again in 426 BC although it lasted less than a year. This was the first plague that was actually detailed. All information comes from an infected man named Thucydides who wrote down notes on how many were infected, symptoms, and how long it took for a person to die. It was found that this infected not just the old, young, or already weakened, but healthy young men and women.

To make it worse, this was a cross-species sickness, with dogs, cats, and birds also getting infected and dying. It also was found that if a person did survive this, they would not get it again, even in the relapse in 426 so it was said to be a single strand virus.

This is one of the most scariest because of having a 98% infected rate plus it's cross-species but many scientists and historians believe because this was a single strand virus that everybody who survived was immunized and passed on their immunity to their children and so-forth so everybody alive is immune. Another theory is that the virus did mutate but mutated so much that it is unrecognizable.

The symptoms are pretty scary:: fever, inflammation of eyes,swelling of throat, and rapid breathing (first stage of disease progression), vomiting, coughing, general distress, and sneezing (second stage of disease progression), heat blisters, extreme thirstiness, restlessness, and insomnia (third stage of disease progression), and finally diarrhea, weakness, and death (final stage of disease progression). If the person survives, they would suffer with amnesia, gangrene, and lost of eyesight.

The scary thing about this plague is that even today it does not fit into any disease we have . There are diseases with some of the symptoms but nothing similar to what the plague was. It also makes you think if something like this existed in the past then what is the possibility it will it happen again?


#6-American Continenet Plague

Starting in 1775, the settlers and Native Americans were hit with a smallpox plague. It lasted all the way until 17982. Starting off mimicking the flu only, the infected would have flu symptoms only to feel better after a couple of days. That's when the disease really starts destroying a person. Painful lesions appeared in the mouth and nasal passages, within a day, a rash appears, The rash can actually be underneath the skin causing hemorrhaging. Most die because of the hemorrhaging however if the rash was on the skin and the welted rashes do not cross the person stands a good chance of surviving, however if they do touch its more than likely they will die.

Once again the infected were isolated with other members of their household as well as a practice called inoculation which means a person injects a person with the virus itself if they think they are vulnerable to it. The person was infected with smallpox so they could pass on the disease to others although there was less chance to die from the injection than if they naturally got smallpox.


#5 London Plague

Started in 1665, England was hit with a major plague although Stuart London was hit the hardest. It was worst in the summer time when it was the hottest. Further problems with the city's sanitation made it worse. Trash and human and animal waste were thrown onto streets, making it a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses to spread. To make the problem worse, it allowed rodents plenty of food to feast upon causing an expansion of rodents and fleas.

As it was, the first victims were those in poverty areas who had the most contact with places where there were more rats When the plague picked up, most of the wealthy had left and any house with an infected individual was quarantined, including non-sick individuals.. Nurses were just local women who were paid to check up on the person and there was also searchers who got paid to search the streets and some houses for the dead. People were also ordered to kill dogs and cats because they thought they carried the disease.

The plague lasted until the winter of 1665 when not only was there a plague but one of the biggest city fire happened after people followed advice to burn objects that might have been used by a infected person. Since many of the houses were made of wood, the fire spread quickly. it was skepulated that the plagued died down because most of the infected died during the fire.

The plague plus the fire called over 15% of London's population to die and was one of the final huge epidemic bubonic plague to hit England.

#4-Justinian Plague

Way back to 540 A.D., Emperor Justinian was trying to regain everything that was lost when Rome fell by saving all of the cities that barbarians took over, however not even an emperor could escape disease. Rats littered the street, bringing another bad bubonic plague to terrorize everybody in his kingdom. The plague started in Egupt and quickly spread to Constantinople which was a great city at the time that many said mimicked what Rome was had. Due to the cramp space in Constantinople, the disease went crazy, killing one thousand people a day, and spreading to other kingdoms and countries. It lasted almost half a century killing almost 25 million people in Europe and Asia.

With so much misery and death and a lack of feeling safe as well as constant battles with barbarian tribes and other kingdoms, the great kingdom of Constantinople fell and the dark ages arrived, setting humans back and producing the raise of Catholicism and Christianity which pushed humanity back even more due to the strict rules the church set including denying rights to humans and a lack of science and education which led to a lack of research in terms of diseases,

#3-Third Pandemic

This is one of the unique bubonic plagues that caused havoc in not just one country but in every continent. It started in 1855 and didn't stop until almost 1959. There is still bubonic plagues and people still get sick and die but the casualties are very small, less than two individuals in the world.The third plague pandemic started in China and killed over 12 million people in just China and India, not including all of the other countries and continents.

This form of bubonic had two different came from rodents, fleas, and infected sailors. The other strain was airborne, spread from person to person by breathing in the air that a infected person was also breathing.

This was also a great way to see patterns of spread between continents, due to infection rates being monitored so the pattern of spread could be realized, Thanks to illnesses like this, today we have ways of preparing for a ;superbug; by following the contagion chart in terms of what country gets hit first.

For the third plague, this was what was found (didn't include everything just an example):

  • Pakhoi, China 1882--> Japan 1896.--> India 1896–1898.-->Madagascar, 1898.-->Egypt, 1899 and other Chinese provinces--> South Africa, 1899–1902.-->Territory of Hawaii, 1899 and USA ---> Australia, 1900–1905 and so on

The wide range pandemic gave plenty of information to researchers to use to test out cures. In 1987, the first human trial of a vaccine was successfully completed in a jail cell with promising results as everybody who received the vaccine didn't get sick and those who did survived it.

#2-Black Death

Probably one of the most famous bubonic plague, the black death has the highest death rate through all of the bubonic plagues. The plague begun in 1347, when a series of vessels arrived at the English ports from the Black Sea. Everybody in the ships were gravely injured or dead. Within the same ships, infected rats snuck out of the ships and started to infect other rodents as well as humans.As the plague got worse, the residents killed cats blaming them for the plague only to make everything worse as the rodent population grew and as well as the rodents, the plague spread like wildfire.

Over a five year period, over 20 million Europeans would die due to this plague. In fact it was so destructive that they even had a nursery rhyme to always remember. The nursery rhyme is still popular today for many children. Everybody should recongize it:

Ring a round a rosie,

pokets full of posies,

ashes, ashes, we all fall down.

Ring a round a rosie refers to the red marks which is the most notable aspects of this disease,pockets full of posies refers to the act of carrying of herbs in hopes it would save a person from getting the disease, ashes, ashes could mean the act of death itself or a part of a religious saying, we all fall down means everybody dies.

#1 The 1918 Influenza Pandemic

Probably the biggest pandemics ever, the influenza Pandemic was had the biggest lost of lives averaging between twenty million and forty million. Over it's five years of life, over 1/5 of the world population was infected and men twenty to forty had the highest chance of dying. The reason for this was that during the time, World War I was winding down. Men were busy working, fighting in the war, they did not have time to rest and let their bodies fight the Influenza. in fact in the United States alone, 28% have developed the influenza and over 265,000 Americans lost their lives to the illness, 43,000 American soldiers who died overseas died due to the illness and not fighting the enemy in the war.

The mortality rate was more than 2.5% for this illness, regular influenza strands had a .01%. Also death seemed to be quick, some people die in less than a day. Some continents had worse like India who 50 out of 1000 causalities would be from the plague which equals out to 5% of the population.

So this was one of the most devastating plagues and hopefully none will ever top it or get anywhere close to this number again.

In Conclusion

All of these plagues have a couple of things in common:

  • Bad sanitation
  • Overcrowding
  • Lack of preventative care/medical
  • Rodent or insects or another type of carrier

Looking at the history and what environment cities were like, it is no surprise so many got sick and died. This is also a reason why the possibility of a killer ;superbug' seems less likely due to our standards of life. It is true that in countries like China, Middle East, India, and Africa are what makes up the most of the recent 'superbugs' but once again that can be linked to bad sanitation, overcrowding, lack of going to the doctors when feeling sick, and the possibility of running into infected livestock or small animals.

Flu shots are also helpful and can stop the person from catching the bug or the symptoms will be weaker and they get over it quicker. This has practically wiped out a lot of the major deadly diseases in countries that have the vaccine for it. However with the number of parents who do not want to vaccinate their children and the number of migrating infected individuals entering the country, some of these diseases like smallpox is coming back but with a mutated form. So it is something to really think about if you are considering rather or not vaccinate your children. There is a .01% chance that the vaccine can cause issues to the child, smallpox can lead to mental retardation, comas, and even death.


Submit a Comment
  • Melissa Noon profile imageAUTHOR

    Melissa Noon 

    4 years ago from California

    And what is your point in keep bringing this up. Both American settlers and native Americans got sick and died which is what I say. This isn't a political essay about how evil the first settlers were, this is an overview of the disease and what was done to try and control it.

  • profile image

    a rose cellar 

    4 years ago

    you don't get it...they came with it knowing very well that it will kill the natives, and DELIBERATELY spread it among the natives[ giving infected blankets was one of the ways]. There are letters to this effect written by Europeans at the Harvard library. please read the above book. and there are many books on how the natives were exterminated. smallpox was one very small weapon, by the way. As a Professor of history and philosophy, i can guide you...if you need a bibliography on any other subject...

  • Melissa Noon profile imageAUTHOR

    Melissa Noon 

    4 years ago from California

    The Europeans didn't bring it over to wipe them out, they didn't have the capabilities to make a disease at that time. They were more used to the disease which is why less died than natives who have never been introduced to a disease like this before.

  • profile image

    a rose cellar 

    4 years ago

    you are not getting the point. europeans introduced this as a weapon against natives and then obviously it infected them as well. but it was brought to attack natives. you must read

    North American Indians: A Very Short Introduction by Theda Perdue and Michael D. Green

    Theda Perdue is Atlanta Distinguished Professor of Southern Culture at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the author of many books, including Sifters:Native American Women's Lives and Cherokee Women: Gender and Culture Change, 1700-1835. She is past president of the Southern Association for Women Historians and the American Society for Ethnohistory, and will serve as president of the Southern Historical Association in 2011.

    Michael D. Green is Professor Emeritus of American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has held fellowships from the Newberry Library and the Rockefeller Foundation and is former chair of the Native American Studies Program at Dartmouth College.

  • Melissa Noon profile imageAUTHOR

    Melissa Noon 

    4 years ago from California

    I know I studied smallpox enough but the smallpox hit everybody involved even the Europeans so I went general with regards to deaths not just focused on native Americans.

  • profile image

    a rose cellar 

    4 years ago

    you ought to know that native americans were infected with smallpox by europeans. this is a historical fact.


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