Impact of Pandemics: What’s Changed?

Since early 2020, there has been a growing fear about coronavirus and its impact on the global economy, consumer trends, work culture, among many other plethora of things. People and firms have been assessing, reassessing the peak, death toll, economic impact of it over and over again, but the end of it is not in sight yet. Numerous forecasts have failed since this crisis began.

As of July 4th, 2020, Global cases have surpassed 11 million and adding 200k confirmed cases everyday. Deaths have cross half a million mark. Most nations are unable to control the spread, or appear to have given up on controlling it. Economic cost of lockdowns, restrictions and its impact on long term behaviour is making leaders skceptical about their choices to control the spread.

World Health Organization declared Coronavirus a global pandemic in March 2020. The WHO declared five global public health emergencies in the last six years since the 2014 Ebola outbreak that followed the H1N1 (swine flu) outbreak in 2009.

The 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak from the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, in December 2019 spread to 121 more countries in less than two months.

Governments are taking fiscal steps to absorb the impact of coronavirus on the economy and the day-to-day lives of their people. Things are moving on a crisis scale. Such is the panic and uncertainty because of this virus. It is worth comparing it with other pandemics of the past that wreaked havoc on humanity and see how it stands out amongst the crowd of pandemics.

History of Pandemics

Antonine Plague165-1805M
Plague of Justinian541-54230-50M
Japanese Smallpox Epidemic735-7371M
Black Death (Bubonic Plague)1347-1351200M
Small Pox152056M
17th Century Great Plagues16003M
18th Century Great Plagues1700600K
Cholera 6 Outbreak1817-19231M
The Third Plague185512M
Yellow FeverLate 1800s100-150K
Russian Flu1889-18901M
Spanish Flu1918-191940-50M
Asian Flu1957-19581.1M
Hong Kong Flu1968-19701M
Swine Flu2009-2010200K
Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)2019-Present0.5M (Till July 4th, 2020)
*Source: VisualCapitalist, CDC, WHO, BBC, Wikipedia, Historical Records

Pandemics similar to Coronavirus in the past are MERS, SARS, which killed close to 2K people combined. Coronavirus crossed this number within approximately 45 days.

In recent times, Swine Flu killed about 200K people. This level of panic and response from governments was missing due to the Swine Flu pandemic. Coronavirus has killed much more than that in last six month and continues to cause death everyday.

1818 Influenza (Spanish Flu) was the most severe one in recent history, according to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention. It killed an estimated 50M people within two years, affected nearly one-third of the global population. This pandemic has an unusual death rate for healthy people in the 20-40 years age group.

For the Spanish Flu, there was no vaccine or antibiotics to treat infections associated with the flu. Public Health control efforts included isolation, quarantine, personal hygiene, and limitation to public gatherings. These are eerily similar to what is being done for Coronavirus containment efforts.

Coronavirus has already cause so much damage to global economy, globalization, human lives. It continues to wreak havoc on all aspect of our lives. If not contained properly, this can become a really horrible phase of mankind’s history.


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