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Top five historical pandemics (and epidemics)


Published May 21, 2020

As everyone and his momma knows, we are currently living under the global pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus. But one thing everyone and his momma might not know is Andrew Wang’s list of the top five historical pandemics (and epidemics).

#5 – London’s 1854 cholera outbreak

Back in 1854, London had a common issue we all experience from time to time: lack of proper sanitation. Essentially, our British friends were unaware that gross and dirty stuff in their water gave them cholera. That was, until a certain physician (and personal friend of mine), John Snow, discovered that clean water is good and that gross, icky water is bad. After that, the epidemic was gone faster than Drake singles hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

#4 – Philadelphia’s 1793 yellow fever epidemic

Yellow fever is a nasty disease that is spread by mosquitoes, and in 1793, Philadelphia had an outbreak. That’s pretty grim, but my favorite part of the story is when winter came and all the mosquitoes died from frost. Good. Yes. Mosquito die. I hate mosquito. Good job, seasons.

#3 – Antonine Plague

Coming in hot at number three is the Antonine Plague. This was when the Romans went around conquering stuff, but then they conquered a little too hard and accidentally contracted smallpox, which decimated their army. Yeah. Number three.

#2 – Spanish flu

1918 had a really bad case of influenza, but the interesting part of this pandemic is its name. Contrary to what some might say, it did not actually start in Spain. It’s named the Spanish flu solely because Spain had more freedom of the press than other countries, so reports of the disease quickly became associated with Spain. Maybe this is why Spain went full authoritarian dictatorship mode after that.

#1 – Black Death

Plague doctors were clearly the pinnacle of fashion in Black Death-striken Europe.

Yeah, I’m sure most of you saw this coming. Everybody and her momma knows about fleas on rats destroying Europe’s population. But everybody and her momma might not know that because so many people died, labor was rarer and so workers were paid more. It also effectively put the nail in the coffin for the practice of serfdom. What a woke and class-conscious plague!

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