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Mankind's 13 Deadliest Diseases

Adam Starr | AllHealthcare

Remember a few months ago when A/H1N1, i.e. “swine flu,” was going to wipe out all of humanity? Do you recall how every single time you turned on the T.V., a talking head would chatter nervously about how “Hamthrax” and “Snoutbreak” was about to really cook everyone’s bacon?

Fortunately, swine flu has largely oinked-out with nowhere near the destructiveness of its earliest prognosis. As far as outbreaks go, it was small and mostly non-lethal, but swine flu did have the potential to do significant damage, to become something bigger, to evolve into a pandemic. AllHealthcare decided to look into our pandemic past to discover clues to our most recent pig-plague scare.

So, what is a pandemic anyway? Pandemic is a Greek word (pan: all, demos: people) that means, “Widespread or general,” it describes an “epidemic that spreads over a large geographic area infecting a sizeable proportion of the population.” The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes a pandemic after these three conditions:

• Disease is infectious to humans
• Disease emerges that is new to a population
• Disease spreads quickly and sustainably between people

There have been victims of disease since the very beginning of human history; death was a natural and often early part of our ancestral past. If unwelcome, death was at least typical. But occasionally these diseases were so virulent and powerful that they threatened to eliminate entire peoples. These outbreaks were anything but typical. From the Bubonic Plague to HIV, mankind has struggled to understand, control, and eradicate these mass deaths. Where we have failed and they have won, we’ve witnessed a pandemic. AllHealthcare have compiled a list of history’s 13 worst pandemics to keep you healthily educated on our past. Read on, stay hygienic, and whatever you do—avoid these next 13 killers like the plague.

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