The Worst Pandemics and Outbreaks in History

The Worst Pandemics and Outbreaks in History

What are the worst pandemics and outbreaks in human history?

  1. Plague of Athens – The plague that ended one of the world’s greatest civilizations.
  2. The Plague of Justinian – An outbreak of disease that caused the deaths of 5,000 people daily.
  3. Spanish Flu – This worldwide pandemic caused the deaths of 75 million people worldwide.
  4. HIV/AIDS – This modern pandemic is still devastating the world’s population, killing millions since its discovery
  5. The Black Death – The most devastating pandemic in the world that resulted in the Renaissance years after.


Over the many years in human history, there have been numerous epidemics that have taken over millions of lives. Some of these epidemics ended civilizations and dynasties, while some have spawned innovations and advancements. A number of them were spread by pests, to which humans responded by improving and refining their pest control and health care capabilities over the years.

Some of the origins of these epidemics remain unclear, but their damage and effects have been documented by various researchers and historians. To give you a brief overview, here are some of the most devastating epidemics in human history:


Plague of Athens (430-427 B.C.E.)

One of the worst things that could happen during wars are losses of life that are not caused by the conflicts and skirmishes, but because of famine or disease. What happened to the ancient city of Athens during this time was the latter. During this period, Athens was at war with the city-state of Sparta. With their strong navy, they believed they would be able to beat the Spartans’ powerful army.

After a string of battles, victory still seemed possible to the Athenians; unfortunately, disease struck them during the worst possible time. It is generally believed that the plague arrived in the ports of Athens, where they receive their food and supplies. The plague devastated the population, which gave the Spartans the upper hand during the rest of the conflict. In the end, Athens lost the war, and their civilization would give way to the Macedonians and the Romans.

The Plague of Justinian

The Plague of Justinian (541-542 C.E.)

The Byzantine Empire was the successor of the fallen Western Roman Empire. During its best years, it was one of the richest empires in the world, and was even able to last longer than the original Roman Empire. Its capital, Constantinople, is considered to be one of the world’s finest trading hubs. During the time of Emperor Justinian, the empire achieved much success, but despite that, he served as a witness to a great calamity.

The plague arrived in the empire during 541 C.E., and during this period, around 5,000 people are dying daily, even the emperor was stricken by the disease (He survived to live until 565 C.E.). The plague was so widespread that it also reached North Europe, the Middle East, and even South Asia.


Spanish Flu (1918-1919)

The first world war happened during the years of 1914 until 1918, it is the second worst conflict in human history, killing millions of civilians and soldiers alike. This was also the war that would set the stage for the Second World War, which proved to be a bloodier and crueller conflict than anyone could have ever imagined.

By the end of the war in 1918, another event that would take millions of lives was about to happen. The Spanish influenza pandemic was a more devastating version of the flu, which turned their victims’ skins blue (and eventually black), and drown their lungs with fluid. The pandemic spread throughout Europe and the United States, and killed over 50 million worldwide. After the end of the pandemic in 1919, the world has seen so many changes that would set the stage for the rest of the 20th century.


HIV/AIDS (1987-present)

A pandemic that is still going on until today, it has already killed almost 30 million people around the world since its discovery in Africa. Despite the many advancements in modern medicine, this is one of the diseases that has still been deemed as incurable. The disease is spread through unprotected sexual contact, along with tainted blood and syringes. It has been estimated that around 20-30 million people around the world may currently be infected with this disease.

The Black Death

The Black Death (1347-1351)

There has been no pandemic that was as impactful and devastating as the Black Death, which happened during the Middle Ages. It is the pandemic that changed the entire landscape of the rest of the world. The origins of the plague remain unclear, although it is commonly theorized that it may have been spread by rats and infected people from the Mongol Empire.

The event was called the Black Death, due to the black spots on the skin caused by the bubonic plague. Once the victim is infected with the disease, they can die within 4 to 7 days. In total, the pandemic caused the deaths of over 60-75 million people worldwide.


Key Takeaway

Pandemics are some of the most devastating human events in any part of the world. They have killed millions of lives, and continue to do so as the years go by. The next epidemic could just be around the corner, and we must be prepared for it.