As violent as we can be towards one another, throughout history the biggest executioner of the human race has been deadly disease. Whether it was the Black Death in 14th century Europe or Malaria in present day Africa, the loss of human life and cost to society has been astronomical. These are the 25 deadliest diseases in human history.
This infection of the small intestine is transmitted primarily by drinking water or eating food containing the feces of an infected person. Worldwide about 5 million people are affected and over 100,000 die from Cholera every year.
After the vaccination campaigns of the 20th century, smallpox has become one of two infectious diseases that have been declared as completely eradicated (the other being rinderpest). Throughout history, however, small pox has claimed numerous lives and just in the 20th century, prior to vaccination, the death toll was estimated at nearly 500 million.
Transmitted by the bite of female mosquitoes, this disease is found in Africa and South America. It typically involves fever, chills, anorexia, nausea, muscle pain (with prominent backache) and headache, but in most cases subsides after several days. Due to warfare and social disruption across Africa, there has seen a resurgence since the 1980s.
Usually attacking the lungs, this disease is spread by airborne saliva. The classic symptoms of active tuberculosis infection are a chronic cough with blood-tinged sputum, fever, night sweats, and weight loss. Today some estimates put nearly one third of world down as having some form of tuberculosis.
Commonly known as the flu, influenza is usually transmitted through the air like tuberculosis but sometimes through direct contact with contaminated surfaces. Because the virus can be inactivated by soap, however, frequent hand washing reduces the risk of infection.
On a world wide scale lung cancer is the most common cancer related death in men and women, responsible for 1.38 million deaths annually.
A common cause of death in third world countries and the second most common cause of infant deaths worldwide, the loss of fluids through diarrhea can cause dehydration and electrolyte disturbances such as potassium deficiency or other salt imbalances.
Each year, about 500,000 women die worldwide from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, including severe bleeding/hemorrhaging, infections, unsafe abortions, obstructed labor and eclampsia, and more than 90 percent of maternal deaths occur in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
Technically known as Pertussis, this highly infectious disease is known in some countries as the “cough of 100 days”. It is estimated that the disease currently affects 48.5 million people yearly, resulting in nearly 295,000 deaths
Deriving its name from the Ebola River in Republic of the Congo, where it was first found, its victims typically suffer fevers, muscle weakness, and other symptoms that progress to severe bleeding, both internal and external, that eventually causes them to bleed to death. Unfortunately there is no treatment as of yet.
Although we’ve already covered influenza as a whole, certain strains adapt to a particular host, in this case birds. Most human contractions of the avian flu are a result of either handling dead infected birds or from contact with infected fluids. For this reason there have been large outbreaks in heavily agricultural parts of Asia and Africa.
Tetanus is a medical condition characterized by a prolonged contraction of skeletal muscle fibers. Infection generally occurs through wound contamination and often involves a cut or deep puncture wound. As the infection progresses, muscle spasms develop in the jaw (thus the name “lockjaw”) and elsewhere in the body.
Often abbreviated as COPD, this disease is caused by noxious particles or gas, most commonly from tobacco smoking, that trigger an abnormal inflammatory response in the lung. Worldwide, COPD is projected to become the fourth leading cause of death by 2030 due to an increase in smoking rates and demographic changes in many countries.
Basically a fancy way of saying heart attacks (or at least the factors that predispose individuals to them), by some estimates 1 in 3 people are said to die from heart disease.
Meningitis is inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. The inflammation may be caused by infection and less commonly by certain drugs. The most common symptoms are headache and neck stiffness associated with fever, confusion or altered consciousness, vomiting, and an inability to tolerate light or loud noises.