About 10 years after the last deadly pandemic, a new virus known as the Novel Coronavirus, otherwise named the 2019-nCoV following the year the first-ever case was confirmed, is shocking the world as one of the fastest-spreading viruses in history.
The source of the new virus, or its ground zero, is in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China after the World Health Organization confirmed cases of pneumonia on December 31, 2019. Today, as of press time, about 2,000 people around the world have been infected with around 80 recorded deaths due to the novel coronavirus. The United States recorded its fifth case of the coronavirus.
It is identified as a respiratory illness that carries symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath. These may appear 2-14 days after exposure, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained. News reports say the ground zero is at a seafood market in Wuhan.
China’s President Xi Jinping, over the weekend has met with government officials, right on Lunar New Year, to warn about the accelerating spread of the virus, BBC News reported. He also said the country is in a “grave situation,” with city-wide lockdowns, travel restrictions, and even Special Administrative Region Hong Kong officially declaring a city emergency.
The 2019-nCoV is only one of the deadliest epidemics in human history.
The deadliest epidemics in history
1. Antonine plague, 165 A.D.
Around five million people died of the Antonine plague, one of the biggest epidemics in history, which happened in 165 A.D. It’s categorized as an ancient pandemic that affected Asia Minor, Greece, Italy, and Egypt. The cause is still unknown even until today, but the disease is relevant to measles and smallpox.
Historical data show the Antonine plague came from soldiers who returned from Mesopotamia to Rome. Aside from killing several people, it also greatly affected the Roman army.
2. Black death, 14th century
Professors would open the class to the Renaissance with a background about the black death or the bubonic plague. This 14th-century worldwide pandemic, which recorded a 200 million death toll, affected the continents of Africa, Asia, and Europe. This plague reportedly came from fleas living on rats’ fur, and since these rats moved to the merchant shops, it was transmitted to humans. The rats utilized the ships’ ports as their breeding grounds, and became the final moments of the dark ages before heralding toward the period of rebirth.
3. Spanish flu, 1918
Claiming the lives of about 50 million people, a flu pandemic in the early years of the 20th century produced up to 25 million deaths in the first few months alone. The most vulnerable to this virus was the young adult population.
This deadly influenza is also called the Spanish flu involving the H1N1 influenza virus. It reached the shores of the Pacific Islands and the Arctic.
4. Flu pandemic, 1968
In the 1960s, particularly on the 13th of July, 1968 in Hong Kong, a category 2 flu pandemic known in the news as “Hong Kong Flu,” the first case was reported. In a matter of 17 days, it spread all over India, Australia, the Philippines, the United States, and the European continent. It had a lower mortality rate compared to other diseases but produced more than a million deaths. About 15 percent of the Hong Kong population got wiped out by the flu virus.
5. SARS coronavirus, 2003
First identified in 2003, SARS coronavirus or SARS-CoV, an animal virus from bats and spread to humans affected a total of 26 countries before it was contained, resulting in more than 8,000 infections and 774 deaths, National Health Service indicated. The first human patient was in the Guangdong province, southern China in 2002. The symptoms included fever, myalgia, diarrhea, headache, and rigors, mostly symptoms from common influenza.
6. Influenza A (H1N1), 2009
Called in the news as the swine flu, the 2009 Influenza A (H1N1) originated from pigs and transmitted to human beings. The first victim was in Mexico, and the virus spread across various areas in the United States. It had a distinctive movement pattern since the same virus kept coming back, for instance during the 2015 A (H1N1) outbreak in India, the outbreak in the Maldives in 2017, and the 2019 outbreaks in Iran, Morocco, and Malta.
There were about 60 million cases and over 12,000 deaths over the years. It is characterized by coughs and sneezing and can transfer via short-distance airborne and respiratory transmission, particularly in crowded spaces. It may also spread by means of hand contamination.
7. MERS-CoV, 2012
The latest coronavirus outbreak that made headlines before the recent coronavirus was MERS-CoV in 2012. The acronym for the Middle East respiratory syndrome, or camel flu, this type of viral respiratory infection produced symptoms including cough, fever, diarrhea, and shortness of breath. There were more than 850 death tolls from this virus.
The recent novel coronavirus challenges nations to improve their health care and capabilities to contain diseases like these. Among the countries with confirmed cases are the United States, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Nepal, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, France, Taiwan, Thailand, and South Korea.