This article describes details of the worst disease outbreaks ever happened in human history.


According to WHO, there have been seven pandemic outbreaks of cholera and in 1999 alone; over 9,000 deaths were recorded on the course of cholera. In human history, the British Army has a record of 100,000 cholera deaths among its troops.

Cholera (Asiatic or epidemic cholera) is transmitted via drinking water or eating foods contaminated by cholera vibrios from other cholera patients. It’s an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae which produces cholera toxin (an enterotoxin which interferes with the mucosal epithelium lining of the small intestine) and may cause severe, exhaustive diarrhea.

Therefore, it’s possible to die within the onset of symptoms or within hours of contracting cholera, as a healthy person’s blood pressure may drop to hypotensive levels. Without a prompt oral rehydration therapy being given, a person may experience an extremely low blood pressure, the first stool to shock in 4 to 12 hours, heart failure, followed by death from 18 hours to several days. It seems that proper sanitation, clean water and hygiene are important elements to keep not get cholera infection.


Enteroviruses are diverse group of small RNA viruses that can cause non-specific viral infection to mild respiratory diseases (such as common cold), aseptic meningitis, severe neonatal sepsis-like disease, acute hemorrhagic conjunctivitis, foot, mouth and hand disease, acute flaccid paralysis, and myocarditis (inflammation of the heart), particularly in infants.

Other types of the species are coxsackie A viruses (CA), coxsackie B viruses (CB), enterovirus 71 (or EV71 can cause rashes, diarrhea, food, hand and mouth disease and in severe case, EV71 may also cause severe neurological disease) and polioviruses. The viruses may be transmitted via direct contact with secretions from an infected individual or by contact with any contaminated objects or surfaces (such as telephone, mouse, drinking glass), and one may also get infected with the viruses by contamination of hands with feces from an infected toddler or children during diaper changes.

Kids or infants who get infected with enterovirus 71 (a fatal strain) may have a mild fever or spots around their mouths, and this virus is highly lethal as it may cause sudden death among children as reported in the late 1990s in Asia, where its outbreak had claimed the lives of about 40 kids (below six years old) in Southern China.

Dengue fever

Dengue fever (also called breakbone fever or dandy fever) is an acute disease transmitted by infected mosquito (Aedes aegypti or the Aedes albopictus mosquito). Each year, according to WHO, about 50 million cases of dengue infection are reported worldwide and about two fifth of the world’s population is at risk for dengue fever. Furthermore, this disease is now regarded as an epidemic in over 100 countries. In 2008, about 100,000 people in Rio de Janeiro had been identified to be infected with dengue.

Its sudden onset is normally accompanied by a benign course of severe joint, muscle pain, headache, fever, swollen glands (lymphadenopathy), rash and exhaustion. That explains why victims of dengue always experience distortion due to acute muscle pain and intense joint. In severe case, one may have bleeding in the gums or nose, black feces, petechiae (purple or small red blisters below the skin), which are a severe form of a deadly hemorrhagic fever, and it can be fatal or even life-threatening.


Ebola is a terrifyingly viral disease that can cause substantially high fatality rate in human since Ebola virus can invade human cells causing severe internal bleeding. The worst outbreak of this disease occurred in 2007, resulting in 187 deaths. The most deadly strain of Ebola, the Zaire strain has been identified in Sudan, Uganda and Congo, while the non-fatal strain of Ebola, the Ebola-Reston strain has been identified in Philippines, Italy and the United States. Human is infected with Ebola virus via direct contact with bodily fluids, mucous membrane and skin of infected persons, and even airborne particles. Muscle pain, vomiting, fever, diarrhea are some of its common symptoms, but in a severe case, one may experience skin rash and internal bleeding.


Swine flu (also called swine influenza, influenza A (H1N1), flu) is a respiratory disease among the pig populations caused by A influenza virus, in which its outbreak normally occurs in the colder weather months (late fall and winter). In 1930 in the United States, an influenza type A H1N1 virus has been known to circulate among pigs. The current swine flu H3N2 viruses are closely associated with human H3N2 viruses.H1NI virus is highly contagious and it can be transmitted from pigs to humans, from humans and pigs, but the most worried one is that it can be transmitted from humans to other humans. The latest cases of swine flu show us that the viruses are transmitted from person to person via coughing and sneezing.

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Sore throat, fever, cough, runny nose, headache and tiredness are common symptoms of H1N1. In adults, severe and persisting vomiting, breathlessness, chest pain, purple or blue discoloration of lips, dizziness while standing, absence of urination, being less responsive than normal drowsy, seizure, and signs of dehydration are emergency signs of H1N1, while in children, poor feeding and lack of tears while crying. When you come across someone with the above stated signs and the symptoms worsen, please consult your nearby doctor immediately.

High risk groups of H1N1 or influenza-related complications include children (below 5 years old), those on dialysis, immunosuppressant, long-term aspirin therapy; those who are undergoing cancer treatment, pregnant mom, persons who aged 65 years and above and those who have underlying medical conditions (such as chronic lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, asthma, breathing problem).

To avoid/prevent getting H1N1, please take precautionary steps as follow:

  • If you’ve been given a medical leave, please stay away from work and school until the end of leave period.
  • Maintain indoor ventilation and sanitation.
  • Wipe/wash off surfaces which are tainted with phlegm, nose discharge, sputum or any impurities with diluted household bleach (one part of bleach ratio to 50 parts of water) immediately. Use 70% alcohol to wipe off the tainted metallic surfaces.
  • Keep distance of 2m from each other or when you contact with anyone in the public places. Protect yourself by wearing surgical mask, and by using hand sanitizer to kill the germs.
  • Keep yourself at home if you don’t have the obligation to be out. Replenish yourself with adequate amount of water to avoid dehydration.
  • Avoid having meals with H1N1 infected person.


AIDS is by far the scariest disease since it has killed 25 million people since 1981. Worldwide, approximately 33 million people are diagnosed to be infected by AIDS virus, and 22 million of them are diagnosed among people in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, about 15,000 U.S. residents died from the AIDS/HIV in 1999.

HIV, or scientifically known as Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is a type of virus that attacks the cells of living organisms by making new copies from the original “codes” (means make up the human body and replicate within those infected cells), weakening immune system (a natural defence against disease), while attacking a particular immune system cell called CD4 lymphocyte. When the immune system is weakened, it leads to chronic and progressive illness. The HIV then advances to a stage of illness called AIDS, or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, causing the infected individuals vulnerable towards other infections and illnesses. As it is regarded as an opportunistic disease, it may also lead to death.

Spinal Meningitis

Spinal Meningitis is a disease that can infect the fluid around the brain and spinal cord, and severe case of this infection can cause an unexpected brain damage or even death if prompt treatment is not given. Its outbreak is more frequent in the northern region of sub-Saharan Africa, which was reported to kill over 2,000 people in Chad, Niger and Nigeria since 2009. In 1996 alone, more than 56,000 cases were reported, with 25,000 people died on the course of Spinal Meningitis infection.


This severe acute respiratory disease can mutate very rapidly but before the outbreak of SARS in 2003, no one paid full attention to this virus which can cause common cold/flu-like symptoms. Nevertheless, condition changed when SARS had been reported to kill doctors and nurses, while showing its pandemic levels in China and Hong Kong, which held the world’s attention.

In the same year, SARS has become a global concern as it is a new and deadly disease that appeared suddenly in the human history. The air travel and the globalization of the live poultry market reflect that this virus has a good medium to sweep across the globe only within a few months.

Black Death

As like the scary pandemic of Spanish Flu of 1918, Black Death (1347-1351) is the scariest infectious diseases that caused a mortality rate of 100%.

It’s by far a pneumonic form of the plague that had killed about 34 million people in Europe, and the same figure had also reported in both India and China. In about 200 years, this epidemic outbreak of bubonic plaque had taken away 100 million lives worldwide. It’s said that this plaque was caused by the bacterium Y.pestis, however, some scientists said it may have caused by anthrax or an Ebola like virus.


MRSA is a highly contagious superbug that has now caused a major health concern among the public. Once infected, its pain is beyond the description of words. A study of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that about 94,000 Americans were seriously ill and 19,000 were reported killed after getting infected with MRSA.

While bacteria that healthy individuals can carry on their skin or in their noses is commonly referred to as “staph” and generally minor, we should be cautious. They may appear as pimples or boils. Staph infections can spread into the blood, bones and lungs and sometimes are resistant to treatment.

For the sake of your health, you should stop the spread of MRSA by taking necessary precautionary steps as follow:

  • Wash your hands frequently before touching others or any materials.
  • Prompt your doctor or nurse to wash their hands before touching you.
  • Avoid sharing your personal items (such as razors, towels, swimming suits, clothing, combs) with others.
  • Apply healthy living habits and strict personal hygiene
  • Make sure you keep your cuts or abrasions disinfected, bandaged, washed or closed properly to avoid the spread of MRSA.
  • If there is a serious outbreak of MRSA in your area, make sure you wash your hand with water thoroughly every 60 minutes.

In the past, black plaque and Spanish flu were both highly pathogenic influenza that caused high mortality rate in human history. They were existed as killer plaques for a longer interval cycle. By the end of the twentieth century, livestock and poultry related pandemic flu caused many deaths in human. About fifteen years later (by the end of 2002 to during the spring and summer of 2003), SARS hit hard in China, and within a short period of six years, H1N1 has now swept over the globe tremendously causing deaths in Mexico, America, Europe and Asian countries. Next time, while confronting with these highly contagious plaques, deadly diseases or flu-like symptoms, who would become an innocent scapegoat?

Black plague and Spanish flu were both highly pathogenic influenzas that caused high mortality rates. They existed as killer plaques for a longer interval cycle. By the end of the 20th century, livestock and poultry-related pandemic flu caused many deaths in humans. About 15 years later in 2002-3, SARS hit hard in China, and within a short period of six years, H1N1 has now swept over the globe tremendously, causing deaths in Mexico, America, Europe and Asia. When next confronted with these highly contagious plagues, deadly diseases or flu-like symptoms, who will become an innocent victim?

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