Although it is a minor distinction, the COVID-19 pandemic is not a plague. It might feel like it, but it really isn’t. The major difference is the type of infection. A coronavirus attacks the respiratory system while a plague goes after the lymph glands. Both spready quickly and cross over to several countries. Sadly, history has been plagued by plagues and pandemics. Here’s a brief rundown of the plagues and pandemic that reshaped civilization.
430 B.C., Athens
The first record of a plague happened during the Peloponnesian War. It has been suspected by historians that this was actually an outbreak of typhoid fever. It spread quickly through Libya, Ethiopia and Egypt. As it made it’s way to Athens, it might have been the reason the Spartans were able to defeat the decimated Athenians. Around two-thirds of the population died.
165 A.D., The Antonine Plague
This plague might have been the first appearance of small pox and it got it’s dubious start with the Huns. Those Huns infected Germans who passed the plague to the Romans. The symptoms included fever, sore throat and pus-filled sores. This plague ravaged the area until 180 A.D. and even took the life of Emperor Marcus Aurelius
1350: The Black Death
Also referred to as the Black Plague, this plague was triggered by a dozen ships that docked in Sicily in 1347. Those ships carried sailors and crew already infected by the bubonic plague. That came from fleas who hopped from infected rats to humans. The plague spread so rapidly that cities and towns couldn’t keep up with the death and the bodies piled up in the streets creating an awful stench. It also had England and France calling a truce to their war and bringing a collapse to the British feudal system.
1492: The Columbian Exchange
When the Spanish began exploring the Caribbean, they brought diseases like smallpox and measles with them. Without previous exposure to these diseases and the ability to develop internal immunity, the native populations were devastated. Estimates put the number of dead in the northern and southern American continents at around 90 percent of the population.
1889: The Russian Flu
There is a lot of talk about the Spanish flu of 1918 but the Russian Flu of 1889 was the first significant flu pandemic. It started in Siberia and made its way to Moscow and then eastward into Europe. Within a year, 360,000 people had died from this flu strain.
1918 Spanish Flu
This flu strained was first identified in the spring Madrid, thus the name. By October of that year, the flu had spread to the rest of Europe and the United states. Keep in mind, this was before commercial air flights. The flu was gone by the following year but not before 50 million died worldwide.