How Did Other Infectious Diseases, Like The COVID-19, End?

Naturally, people everywhere are panicking, but hopefully, like all the viruses that have preceded it, the SARS-CoV-2 induced pandemic will eventually end.

The novel Coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2, was first detected in a Wuhan, China, marketplace in December of 2019. COVID-19, the disease caused by this virus has spread across the globe, and the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. Even though agencies around the world have attempted to contain it, the number of cases continues to increase.

Naturally, people everywhere are panicking, buying extra supplies, staying indoors, and selling their stocks.  Yet like all the viruses that have preceded it, the SARS-CoV-2 induced pandemic will eventually end. How this will happen is still unclear, but it is possible that there will be a vaccine, people will naturally develop immunities, it will mutate, or the virus will end up turning into a common respiratory virus.

The First SARS Virus

A similar strain of coronavirus started in the Guangdong province of China back in 2002. Like SARS-CoV-2, it is theorized that SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) traveled from animals to humans. This infection carried over to 26 more countries, including Canada. Fortunately, it did not get much further for two main reasons. First, it randomly mutated; and second, there was effective public health containment.


MERS-CoV electron micrograph. Image credit: Cynthia Goldsmith/Maureen Metcalfe/Azaibi Tamin / Public domain

Also, a coronavirus, MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) is related to SARS. It was identified in Saudi Arabia back in 2012. Although The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that it is not transmitted between humans as easily as other infectious diseases, three to four of every 10 MERS patients have died. It originated in the Arabian Peninsula. There were 55 confirmed cases in June of 2013, and a separate outbreak in 2015 in South Korea. This smaller epidemic eventually caused 38 deaths.


A hospital isolation ward in Gulu, Uganda, during the October 2000 outbreak. Image credit: Daniel Bausch, Division of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases, National Center for Infectious Diseases, CDC / Public domain

The Ebola virus first turned up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Then in September 2014, an Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa spread quickly, with dozens of people succumbing to the virus each day. President Obama took action, by sending close to 3,000 Army troops to Liberia. They built treatment facilities, which helped curb the outbreak.


Reconstructed Spanish flu virus. Image credit: Photo Credit: Cynthia GoldsmithContent Providers(s): CDC/ Dr. Terrence Tumpey/ Cynthia Goldsmith / Public domain

The notorious 1918 influenza (H1N1) pandemic took just months to travel the world, and killed approximately 50 million people, or one-third of the world’s population. It was first discovered in spring of 1918 by U.S. military personnel, and was called the “Spanish Flu.” Scientists determined that H1N1 had avian origins. At the time there were no vaccines, plus there were shortages of medical personnel as the country was involved in World War I. This pandemic ended by the summer of 1919, when the people infected with it either passed away or developed immunities.  The CDC reported that around 675,000 Americans died from the Spanish Flu.

Bubonic Plague

People who died of bubonic plague in a mass grave from 1720 to 1721 in Martigues, France. Image credit: S. Tzortzis/Public domain

The Bubonic Plague, or Black Death, was even deadlier, killing an estimated 75 to 200 million people. It happened back in the 14th century, and was caused by Yersinia pestis, a bacterial disease. It was transmitted from rodents and other small animals, via infected fleas who jumped from animals to humans, then biting their victims. It then went between humans, and the painful symptoms included swollen lymph nodes, chills, fever, and weakness. The plague gained strength around 1320 and spread to China, Asia, Italy, and Russia. It returned six or so more times in the 1500s and 1600s.

There are different theories as to how the Bubonic Plague ended. Some believe that quarantines were used to keep people indoors, and that they proved effective. Others feel that advances in personal hygiene helped, along with the newer practice of cremating bodies, rather than burying them. It is also possible that London’s Great Fire of 1666 burned away the remnants of this fatal disease.


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