For centuries, humankind has been in a race for its survival against diseases that ravage large populations. Smallpox, measles, and the bubonic plague represent some of the most infamous pandemics in human history. These diseases are known as pandemics. The outbreaks of such diseases were felt across international or continental lines thus ending the lives of hundreds of millions of people. By the time a cure was found, the bubonic plague had led to the death of about a third of Europe’s population with its peak documented between 1347 until about 1400. From the latest Epidemiology researches, it can be argued that untreated pandemic illnesses cause the greatest threat to humanity. Two of the top ten most potent pandemics namely HVI/AIDS and Typhus remain incurable. Additionally, as highlighted for two years between 2014 and 2015, viruses such as Ebola can cause global panic. In an era when the field of medicine is celebrated for its breakthroughs, the existence of global panic due to a disease that has existed for 42 years shows that the world is susceptible and ill prepared to handle the 21st century pandemic.
Figure 1. Number of deaths from the deadliest pandemics in history worldwide (in millions).
When analyzing the history of humankind, it is clear that human beings are warriors by nature. Often, different types of human civilizations have found themselves battling for their survival against a disguised enemy. As indicated by Walsh (2017), for antiquity, the globe has found itself under attack from mysterious ailments that have in a way caused the preponderance of civilizations to perish. The progression of infectious diseases has and continues to challenge human existence calling for solutions from a variety of professional fields such as agriculture and urban philosophy.
Over time, different societies have highlighted the need or preference to live in urban settings. Subsequently, urbanization, as well as cross-cultural interactions, have given rise to the existence of as well as provoked the widespread of illnesses that have been described as epidemics or pandemics depending on the size of the affected regions. As described by World Health Organization (2017), an epidemic is a time when a known or a common disease affects a large population of individuals within a specified region. On the other hand, a pandemic is similar to an epidemic with the most notable difference being the extensive spreading of an ailment, for instance, from one continent to another (World Health Organization, 2017). Despite their variations in descriptions, most pandemics have been denoted to epidemics. Nevertheless, epidemics and pandemics have had a significant impact on the course of human history, particularly by inflicting lifestyle changes, as well as ending the lives of many individuals.
When diseases such as smallpox, measles, and Black Death are mentioned, high number of deaths comes to mind. Nevertheless, despite their potency these diseases are predominantly outdated. Unfortunately, epidemics with the potential of becoming pandemics continue to exist in the poorer parts of the globe. Additionally, such diseases continue to ravage large populations of individuals; for instance, HIV/Aids, cholera, and typhus as highlighted in figure 1 above. Diseases such as Influenza and Black Death are considered the most devastating pandemics in human history because of the millions who died. However, they do not exist, thanks in part to the concept of Global Civics (Gates, 2015). The same can be transferred to current cases of modern pandemics. As aforementioned, the current pandemics that ravage populations are either confined or servilely felt in poor economic regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa. Transfer of resources from well-developed regions may aid in reducing or ending deaths caused by these illnesses. Most of the pandemics that threaten the human society may be incurable but they are preventable. Developed nations have the obligation to transfer or share resources as well as knowledge to affected regions. For instance, although there is no cure for HIV/Aids, there exist several preventive products. Such products can be availed to individuals who may not have the financial muscle to buy them. According to a report by World Health Organization (2017), 35% of individuals living in sub-Saharan Africa are at risk of contracting HIV due to a lack of knowledge on using protection such as condoms. An additional 15% do not have access to the product itself. The same goes to cholera, a disease known to be caused by eating food or drinking food contaminated by Vibrio cholerae. If developed nations provide knowledge and material resources to affected areas, there is a likely chance that deaths related to the diseases may reduce.
Human civilization has been exposed to significant hardship due to diseases. From the past, millions of individuals have lost their lives due to epidemics and pandemics. Nevertheless, the human race continues to show its resilience by developing a means to not only survive but also to thrive. In an age of medical breakthroughs, it is clear that medical science is in a position to deal with the next epidemic or pandemic. Nevertheless, there is still need to develop means to cope with the modern ailments such as HIV/AIDS that continue to claim millions of lives.
Gates, B. (2015). How to fight the next epidemic. New York Times, 18. Retrieved from; https://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/18/opinion/bill-gates-the-ebola-crisis-was-terrible-but-next-time-could-be-much-worse.html
Walsh, B. (2017). ‘The World Is Not Ready for the Next Pandemic’. Times online Magazine retrieved from http://time.com/magazine/us/4766607/may-15th-2017-vol-189-no-18-u-s/
World Health Organization (2017). Evolution of public health security. PDF retrieved from; http://www.who.int/whr/2007/07_chap1_en.pdf