Since man is a species that evolved, it caused the spread of various diseases and epidemics, the most important cause of death in human history. Throughout history, different beliefs from different traditions, religions, and cultures believed that such events were sent by the gods as a lesson to humanity.
However, all these major pandemics have somehow ended, but the main questions we have to ask are:
– How did it end?
Was medicine advanced enough to integrate the word hygiene into the world?
– Most of those infected died?
Perhaps they began to realize that this is not something governed by divine power, but a natural phenomenon that can be controlled by humanity. To better understand, let’s take a look at some of the great pandemics of history, how they ended, and how pandemics affect human behavior.
Justinian Plague Outbreak (541-549 AD)
The Justinian Plague was one of the worst epidemics in Europe. It was the first major pandemic to reach millions of deaths in the world. Yersinia Pestis This pandemic is caused by a bacterium called “human-to-human”, and was transmitted by rats.
It seems that this epidemic started in Egypt and spread to the Byzantine Empire with monthly grain transportation. From here it spread to most of Europe, Asia, North Africa and the Far East. In less than a year, the pandemic had spread around the world.
It is estimated that about fifty million people died due to this pandemic. However, it is very difficult to say an exact number of deaths due to the age and destructiveness of the epidemic. Historians and researchers; He estimates that the Justinian Plague killed 50% of the world’s population.
Due to the lack of medical knowledge and technological advances, people at that time did not understand how this plague spread, so they could not take any action to stop the spread. The only precaution they learned to take was to stay away from those who were sick!
After 9 long and painful years, the plague was over and people thought they would never experience such an event again …
Black Death / Bubonic Plague (1347–1351)
The second and most devastating epidemic that humanity has experienced is the Black Death, also known as the Bubonic Plague. It is estimated that more than 200 million people died due to this four-year epidemic. It is said that the Bubonic Plague was brought to Sicily from a small colony in Crimea. From there, the plague took over Europe, and a year later the rest of the world.
Humanity still did not fully understand what was going on, so they did not know how to protect themselves from this disease. Many still believed that it was a sign of divine power and that divine power cursed humanity because of wars waged by provocative people.
However, in 1348, the idea of quarantine came to the mind of the Province of Venice! Every seafarer who came to the Venetian port during the black death epidemic remained in quarantine for thirty days to prove that they did not show any illness. This period was extended further, forty days, only to ensure that everyone who came to Venice was not affected by the Bubonic plague.
Pieter Bruegel – Triumph of Death. It depicts a devastated landscape where death takes people indiscriminately, as it appears during a wave of plague. (Source: Museo del Prado)
By venice Quarantine This new system, called it, was implemented in most of Europe in 1350. Even though it has reached the highest number of deaths to date, the main reason for the end of Bubonic plague is the application of quarantine.
17th Century Great Plague
Even if the great plague is considered a smaller pandemic due to the low death toll of 100,000, it is worth mentioning as a new step has been taken during this pandemic era.
Britain (due to being an island) knew it would be devastating if the plague entered their territory. So he had to find something to prevent this from happening.
They knew they couldn’t prevent the plague from entering the country, but maybe they could save the rest if they spot the plague and send them outside of the city. This plague, like the others, was transmitted from animals. Therefore, the authorities in London had to kill all the dogs, cats and other animals in the area in the city.
The Great Plague (1665) (Source: Tudors and Stuarts)
Moreover, the London authorities made sure that all places were closed. So most people would live in their homes. As a result, the potential for plague to spread has been reduced. However, they knew it wasn’t enough. That’s why they came in isolation! They took all sick people to the countryside, leaving them to die.
Red crosses were drawn on homes with infected people. Entry and exit to these houses were prohibited. At night, caravans roamed the city to collect the corpses (to keep the plague away from those still alive). This pandemic lasted only 18 months. This is because people are fighting against this natural chaos.
This epidemic swept the world once again. The difference from the others is that the source of a pandemic has been found for the first time in human history. In 1854, the English doctor John Snow managed to identify the origin of the Cholera. This bacteria affected the intestines.
It was usually transmitted through dirty water or from products contaminated with faeces. It was a time when people started finding ways to clean up water supplies, or at least boil water before using it.
Patients at the central street hospital in New York (Source: NYPL Digital Collections)
John Snow’s discovery was due to increased political publicity in the medical industry. People began to accept that pandemics were a natural trend, which meant that humanity would always challenge the pandemic. Unfortunately, this bacteria is still present in third world countries.
Smallpox (18th century – 19th century)
This is more common than a pandemic. But it started out as a pandemic just like the others. It is assumed that smallpox originated from India in the late 18th century and spread very easily all over the world as there was a lot of export from India at that time.
This extremely serious virus was contagious and caused small pimples all over the body. Edward Jenner took a big step forward and created the first vaccine containing antibodies to fight this disease. This is considered the biggest advance in premodern medicine in combating epidemics.
An artistic interpretation of Edward Jenner’s vaccination of eight-year-old James Phipps in 1796. (Source: Pan American Health Organization)
Smallpox is estimated to have claimed more than 250 million lives in the 18th century. The pandemic will end, but when? This is exactly in our hands.