• This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
  • Earth.Org Newsletters

    Get focused newsletters especially designed to be concise and easy to digest

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
SHOP Support

Transmitted sexually or through blood, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) slowly destroys one’s immune system until acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) sets in. It was first observed in American gay communities but likely evolved from simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) in chimps from west Africa.

35 Million people have died of AIDS since its discovery and we have yet to find a cure.

From January 1918 to December 1920, this unusually deadly flu pandemic infected 500 million people (27% of the world population) and killed between 17 and 100 million.

Of avian origin, it is said to have originated from China and spread by workers on railroads. Despite its global scale, it was dubbed the Spanish Flu because Spain was the first country to openly admit the gravity of the situation, leading to general panic.


This pandemic was caused by an avian influenza that began in China and lasted two years, quickly spreading to the United States and England. The second wave in 1958 caused around 1.1 million deaths around the globe, but a vaccine was rapidly developed, which helped contain the disease.

This pandemic started in Siberia and Kazakhstan, went through Europe and reached Africa and North America. By 1890, 360 000 lives were taken, and with two more recurrences, 1 million were killed by 1895.

When the Fiji islands were handed to the British by their King Cakobau, he and his men sailed to Sydney and returned carrying measles. It rapidly spread and killed a third of their popultion, or 40 000 people. Many of the 100 islands occupied were abandoned for a time.

The third bubonic plague pandemic began in China and moved through India, claiming 15 million victims on its path. In China, it was a factor in triggering the Panthay and Taiping rebellions.  India was hit the hardest and the British used this as an excuse for repressive policies, leading to some revolts.

The disease was considered ongoing until 1960.

First of seven over the next 150 years, it lasted seven years and began near Calcutta. From there it spread through East Asia and even reached the Mediterranean, killing many British soldiers.

This pandemic covered a wider range than any other before it.

In its second major appearance, the bubonic plague took 20% of London’s population (~100 000 people). The worst of it faded as another event befell the city – The Great Fire of London.

The Spaniards brought with them disease such as smallpox, measles and the bubonic plague which devastated local populations. The Taino people, 60 000 strong upon Columbus’ arrival, were less than 500 by 1548.

Subsequent expeditions repeated the scenario across the Americas, with estimates of 85 to 90% death rates in both the northern and southern continents.

One of the most devastating pandemics in history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 75 to 200 million people in Eurasia, or around one-third of the world population. Believed to have been brought from Asia through the Mongol conquests, it entered Europe through Sicily in 1347  AD and spread rapidly from there.

Because no explanation could be found, it was believed to be a divine punishment once again. Jewish communities suffered many attacks like the Strasbourg massacre of February 1349, where around 2000 Jews were murdered.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Hand-picked stories once a fortnight. We promise, no spam!

Instagram @earthorg Follow Us