• 541-542

    Plague of Justinian

    The Plague of Justinian was the beginning of the first plague pandemic, Cause: the bacterium Yersinia pestis.

    Named after the Roman Emperor Justinian after he contracted the disease and recovered in 542. It is now estimated that half of Europe’s population died as a result of this first plague pandemic before it disappeared in the 700s.

    Killed 30-50 million.

  • 1347-1351

    The Black Death (aka the Second Plague)

    Cause:  the bacterium Yersinia pestis.

    Killed 200 million.


  • 1817-1975

    The Seven Cholera Pandemics

    Cause: caused by a bacterium called Vibrio cholerae.

    Killed: 40 Million.

    The first of seven cholera pandemics emerged out of the Ganges Delta with an outbreak in Jessore, India. The cholera pandemics have continued for >150 years. They arise from a lack of treatment of human faeces that contaminates drinking water. Outbreaks still continue.

  • 1855-1960

    Bubonic Plague

    Cause: a new variant strain of the bacterium Yersinia pestis.

    The third plague pandemic as it became known began in that began in Yunnan, China, in 1855 and spread to all inhabited continents. It  led to more than 12 million deaths in India and China alone.  According to the World Health Organization, the pandemic was considered active until 1960, when worldwide casualties dropped to 200 per year. Deaths have continued at a lower level every year since.

    Killed >15 million with the majority in India and China


  • 1889–1890

    Flu pandemic
 (Aka the Asiatic or Russian flu)

    Cause: Influenza or Human Coronavirus  HCoV-OC43

    Killed around a million people

  • 1915

    Encephalitis lethargica pandemic

    Cause: The Encephalitis lethargica.

    Encephalitis lethargica is an unusual form of encephalitis. Also known as “sleeping sickness”.

    Killed 1.5 million


  • 1918

    Spanish Flu

    Cause: The H1N1 influenza A virus

    This pandemic was also known as the Spanish Flu and coincided with the end of the First World War. The amount of those who died from the Spanish flu surpassed the numbers who died in the first world war.

    Killed 500 million.

  • 1957-1958

    Asian Flu

    Cause:  subtype H2N2.

    Originated in  China and continued to be transmitted until 1968, when it transformed via antigenic shift into the influenza A virus which later caused the 1968  Hong Kong influenza pandemic.

    Killed 1.1 million


  • 1968

    Hong Kong Flu

    Cause: an H3N2 strain of the influenza A virus related to the H2N2 virus.

    Killed 1 million

  • 1977-1978

    Soviet Flu

    Cause: The Influenza A virus subtype H1N1.

    Because a similar strain was prevalent in 1947–57, most adults had substantial immunity so it only really affected children and young adults under the age of 23. Because of a striking similarity in the viral RNA of the two strains – one which is unlikely to appear in nature due to antigenic drift – it was speculated that the later outbreak was due to a laboratory incident in Russia or Northern China.

    Killed 30,000


  • 1981-present day


    Cause: the human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) is a spectrum of conditions caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

    Killed 35 million to date

  • 2009-2010

    Swine Flu Pandemic

    Cause: The H1N1 influenza virus

    The 2009 swine flu pandemic was  the second of two pandemics involving H1N1 influenza virus (the first being the 1918–1920 Spanish flu pandemic).

    The virus appeared to be a new strain of H1N1 which resulted from a reassortment of bird, swine, and human flu viruses that was further combined with a Eurasian pig flu virus leading to the term “swine flu”.

    Killed 284,000


  • 2019

    Covid-19 Pandemic

    Cause: The Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2)

    Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

    The first case was identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019 and has since spread worldwide, leading to the  ongoing pandemic.