The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus around the world over the past few months has ushered in a time of uncertainty for family, the media and the stock market.
But while the virus is incredibly serious and all people should follow the orders of governments and health organizations to quell the spread, the coronavirus pales in comparison to some historic pandemics.
Here are the worst pandemics in history.
The Bubonic Plague (1347-1351)
Stats: 25 million dead
The 14th century outbreak was big enough to earn it the all-time simple moniker of “The Plague.” According to the CDC, it was caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, transmitted to humans by rodent fleas or infected animals. It claimed 25 million lives, making it one of the most deadly pandemic in history, indelibly marking European culture.
The Spanish Flu (1918-1919)
Stats: 500 million people infected, 20-50 million dead
Some reports have compared the COVID-19 coronavirus to the Spanish Flu pandemic, not in scale (the latter was far more severe and deadly) but in the way cities around the U.S. have responded adequately or not to the threat. According to the CDC, the Spanish Flu was also an H1N1 virus transmitted to human originally from birds, but it devastated even healthy populations, spreading rapidly in America at public gatherings, like celebrations of the end of WWI.
Smallpox (16th-17th centuries)
Stats: Unknown number of people infected and dead
The smallpox virus, or variola virus, has been killing people for thousands of years, but it particularly devastated the peoples of the Americas after contact with Europeans in the early 16th century. According to PBS, some scholars put the death toll at up to 20 million people over a few generations. The disease was far deadlier than any force the European conquerors used intentionally.
Plague of Justinian (541-542)
Stats: 30 to 50 million people dead
While not as well known as the Black Death, the first of a trio of plagues wiped out tens of millions of lives in the Byzantine Empire. Like the Bubonic Plague in the 14th century, the Plague of Justinian was caused by Yersinia pestis, but it may have been even more deadly.
Third Plague (1885)
Stats: 12 million dead
The third in the trio of Plagues to strike world populations, the Third Pandemic hit East Asia in the 19th century. While relatively constrained by plague standards, the disease still killed around 12 million people in China and India.