Timeline: How coronavirus compares to history's most deadly pandemics

How coronavirus compares to history’s deadliest pandemics: Visual timeline pits COVID-19 against Black Death, smallpox and AIDS – as experts warn current crisis could rival Spanish flu ‘in its lethality and scale’

  • Shows bubonic plague, also known as Black Death, killed 200million people and most lethal of all pandemics
  • 1918 Spanish flu outbreak claimed lives of almost 50million people in just one year after racing around globe
  • By comparison, COVID-19 killed more than 7,000 people and infected 182,000 since outbreak in December
  • Scientists say the ‘scale’ and ‘lethality’ of the virus is on the scale of Spanish flu and warn of lack of vaccine
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

The true scale of the coronavirus outbreak currently sweeping the world has been laid bare in a visual timeline comparing it to history’s most deadly pandemics. 

It shows the bubonic plague, also known as the Black Death, was the most lethal of all diseases, killing roughly 200million people in the 14th century.

Smallpox, the second deadliest pandemic in history, claimed the lives of 56million people over more than 400 years before it was finally eradicated in 1980. 

By comparison, COVID-19 has so far killed 7,000 people and infected more than 180,000 since December. But it is still in its early stages.

Scientists say the ‘scale’ and ‘lethality’ of the virus is on the scale of the H1N1 influenza strain that sparked the Spanish flu pandemic over 100 years ago.

The 1918 outbreak killed off almost 50million people in just one year after racing around the globe and infecting a quarter of the world’s population.   

The true scale of the coronavirus outbreak currently sweeping the world has been laid bare in a visual timeline comparing it to history’s most deadly pandemics. It shows the bubonic plague, also known as the Black Death, was the most lethal of all diseases, killing roughly 200million people in the 14th century

COVID-19 has so far killed 7,000 people and infected more than 180,000 since December. But it is still in its early stages

Clean-up: A volunteer wearing a protective suit and face mask operates a remote-controlled disinfection robot in a residential area of Wuhan, which recorded only one new case today 

Medical staff cheer themselves up before going into an intensive care ward at the Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan yesterday, with the crisis easing in China 

The timeline, created by Visual Capitalist, shows that in general there has been a gradual reduction in the death rates of each pandemic, with Ebola, MERS and SARS all being contained quickly. 

Medical advancements and mapping the spread of infectious diseases have been powerful tools in mitigating their impact. 

But the infographic also shows that viruses can still run rampant and kill millions if scientists are unable to develop a vaccine.

HIV has been able to claim the lives of around 32million sufferers since it first made the jump from monkeys to humans in 1981 because there is no cure.  

Humans trials of an experimental coronavirus vaccine began last Friday. 

Forty-five participants in Seattle – which is currently being ravaged by an outbreak – will receive the jab to test it is safe.

None of the volunteers, who are aged between 18 and 55, will be infected at this point. Further trials are planned if the vaccine is safe.

Dozens of pharmaceutical firms and universities across the world are in a race against time to create a COVID-19 vaccine.

Leading officials have already warned a jab to protect millions could be a year away, meaning thousands will die in the meantime.

More than 170,000 cases have already been confirmed worldwide, and at least 6,500 patients are known to have died.

The World Health Organization says 35 experimental vaccines are in development, including one co-developed by the US government.

The National Institutes of Health is funding the trial of the jab, which was created alongside Massachusetts-based Moderna.

The first participant in the phase one trial – the earliest stage of human drug research – will receive the vaccine today, an official revealed.

None of the patients will be infected with the coronavirus at this stage.

All of the patients will receive the experimental jab at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle.

The source who disclosed plans for the first participant spoke on condition of anonymity because the move has not been publicly announced.

Public health officials say it will still take a year to 18 months to fully validate any potential vaccine – despite human trials beginning.

However, modern antiretroviral treatments can control it and let patients live long and healthy lives.   

Leading experts are currently racing to develop a vaccine for coronavirus – the first of which will be tested on humans in April.

But it could still be another year before the jab is deemed safe enough for global immunisation. 

The world’s major cities have adopted a bewildering array of measures to fend off the coronavirus crisis, with some enforcing drastic lockdowns while others prefer a lighter touch. 

Some popular tourist hotspots such as Rome have become nearly deserted after citizens were ordered to stay inside to stop the virus spreading. 

Limits on public gatherings have been set as low as 50 people in Berlin and New York City, with Donald Trump suggesting a limit of ten for the U.S. as a whole. 

But schools, bars and restaurants are still open in London, where the UK government has been much more reluctant to impose draconian measures.  

Some cities such as San Francisco are threatening people with fines or imprisonment if they venture out illegally, while other authorities are still only offering guidance.  

In some countries such as Italy, the national government has taken command of the crisis and ordered shutdowns across the country.

However, U.S. states and cities have more freedom to take their own actions, while Germany has also left much of the decision-making to its 16 states including Berlin.     

It comes after Germany’s public health agency warned the coronavirus crisis could last up to two years. 

The Robert Koch Institute, the German federal government agency responsible for disease control and prevention, made the claim on Tuesday as it strengthened the threat risk for Germany from ‘moderate’ to ‘high’. 

It comes after German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday announced gatherings in churches, mosques and synagogues would be banned and said playgrounds and non-essential shops would close as the country reaches 7,000 confirmed cases, and 14 deaths. 

The Robert Koch Institute said the pandemic could stretch on for another 24 months as pandemics usually run their course in waves. 

According to RKI President Lothar Wieler, the length of time depends on how many people develop immunity to COVID-19 after contracting the virus, how many more people test positive for the illness and how long it takes to develop a vaccine.  

Dr Wieler did not rule out the potential for some of the emergency measures established by countries to have to stay in place for that duration. 

The first humans trials of an experimental coronavirus vaccine began last Friday. 

Forty-five participants in Seattle – which is currently being ravaged by an outbreak – will receive the jab to test it is safe.  

This table shows the public health measures which nine major cities have taken – or not taken – to stop the spread of coronavirus. Some have been imposed by national or regional governments. In some cases, there have been partial bans (shown in orange), for example in Berlin where bars are closed but restaurants can remain open if they enforce a 5ft safety distance. The figures for Paris, Los Angeles and Rome include cases from the wider regions which surround them 

A woman is pictured wearing a face mask in London Waterloo. People should avoid all ‘non-essential’ travel and contact with other people, the Government has warned

A man is pictured wearing a face mask in London Waterloo station this morning. The UK is now on red alert for coronavirus and train services could soon be reduced or stopped as people work from home

Drastic coronavirus restrictions could last TWO YEARS, Germany warns 

Germany’s public health agency has warned that the coronavirus crisis could last up to two years. 

The Robert Koch Institute, the German federal government agency responsible for disease control and prevention, made the claim on Tuesday as it strengthened the threat risk for Germany from ‘moderate’ to ‘high’. 

It comes after German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday announced gatherings in churches, mosques and synagogues would be banned and said playgrounds and non-essential shops would close as the country reaches 7,000 confirmed cases, and 14 deaths. 

The Robert Koch Institute said the pandemic could stretch on for another 24 months as pandemics usually run their course in waves. 

According to RKI President Lothar Wieler, the length of time depends on how many people develop immunity to COVID-19 after contracting the virus, how many more people test positive for the illness and how long it takes to develop a vaccine.  

Dr Wieler did not rule out the potential for some of the emergency measures established by countries to have to stay in place for that duration. 

Meanwhile German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the government has come up with some 50 million euros (£45 million) to bring home German citizens stuck abroad.

He announced a drive to bring home thousands of tourists stranded in popular winter vacation spots across the globe – particularly people on package holidays in Morocco, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, the Maldives and Egypt.

Maas said the government is spending up to 50 million euros on the effort to bring Germans home over the coming days in co-operation with airlines including Lufthansa.

None of the volunteers, who are aged between 18 and 55, will be infected at this point. Further trials are planned if the vaccine is safe.

Dozens of pharmaceutical firms and universities across the world are in a race against time to create a COVID-19 vaccine.

Leading officials have already warned a jab to protect millions could be a year away, meaning thousands will die in the meantime.

More than 170,000 cases have already been confirmed worldwide, and at least 6,500 patients are known to have died.

The World Health Organization says 35 experimental vaccines are in development, including one co-developed by the US government.

The National Institutes of Health is funding the trial of the jab, which was created alongside Massachusetts-based Moderna. 

The first participant in the phase one trial – the earliest stage of human drug research – will receive the vaccine today, an official revealed. None of the patients will be infected with the coronavirus at this stage.

All of the patients will receive the experimental jab at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle.

The source who disclosed plans for the first participant spoke on condition of anonymity because the move has not been publicly announced.

Public health officials say it will still take a year to 18 months to fully validate any potential vaccine – despite human trials beginning.

Meanwhile China reported just one domestic case of coronavirus today, as the outbreak continues to grind to a halt in the epicentre. 

The single case in Wuhan will boost China’s view that it has ‘basically curbed’ the spread of the pathogen which emerged in the city last December.

But the country is now concerned about an influx of cases from abroad, with an average of 20,000 people flying into China every day.

In a reversal of roles, Beijing is now requiring almost all international arrivals to go into 14-day quarantine in designated hotels.

China also reported 13 new deaths today, raising its toll to 3,226. The country has recorded 80,881 total cases, but fewer than 9,000 people remain infected.

As recently as last month, 99 per cent of worldwide cases were in China but the figure is now only 45 per cent.

Nine of the 20 new imported cases were in Beijing and three in Shanghai, raising the total number of confirmed infections from abroad to 143, according to the National Health Commission.

A security police officer controls the temperature of a government official at the entrance to the La Moneda presidential palace as the Chilean government takes measures to control the spread of the coronavirus

Shoppers queue to enter the Costco wholesale supermarket in north London as panic-buying grips the nation amid the outbreak

A man in a face mask rides an electric scooter through the streets of Moscow this morning after Europe was named the outbreak’s epicentre

The country’s progress stands in stark contrast with the growing crisis in other countries, with most of Europe grinding to a halt over virus fears.

The number of deaths worldwide has passed 7,000, with more than 181,500 cases in 145 countries.

Wuhan and its 11million people were placed under strict quarantine on January 23, with the rest of Hubei province going under lockdown in the following days.

Authorities tightened restrictions in the city even further on February 11, confining people to their homes as health workers faced a daily deluge of well over 1,000 cases – a move officials say was critical in containing the virus.

Other cities across the country also ordered people to stay indoors, and no new domestic infections have been detected outside Hubei for several days in a row with restrictions starting to be loosened.

People who live alone, minors, the elderly, pregnant women and people with underlying conditions are allowed to confine themselves at home.

A Beijing medical adviser last week boasted that the world could bring the outbreak under control if it emulates China’s measures.

Epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan urged countries to ‘get mobilised’ and ‘intervene on a national scale’ to halt a crisis which is now spiralling outside China.

Zhong, who is credited with helping to combat the SARS outbreak in 2003, warned that the current crisis would ‘last longer’ if countries ‘do not treat the infectiousness and harmfulness seriously’.

China is now focusing on restarting factories and businesses hit by the containment policies, including the hard-hit airline industry.

Chinese airlines reported total losses of 20.96 billion yuan ($3billion) in February while the total number of airline passengers fell 84.5 per cent year-on-year.

Local governments must do their utmost to ensure people return to work as soon as possible, the official China Daily said in an editorial.

Many businesses are still facing labour shortages and supply-chain disruptions, it said.

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS?

What is the coronavirus? 

A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body’s normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word ‘corona’, which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.

The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It has been named SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. The name stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2.

Experts say the bug, which has killed around one in 50 patients since the outbreak began in December, is a ‘sister’ of the SARS illness which hit China in 2002, so has been named after it.

The disease that the virus causes has been named COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019.

Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: ‘Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals. 

‘Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses). 

‘Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.’ 

The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started publicly reporting infections on December 31.

By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.

The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000. 

Where does the virus come from?

According to scientists, the virus almost certainly came from bats. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.

The first cases of COVID-19 came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in Wuhan, which has since been closed down for investigation.

Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat. 

A study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in February 2020 in the scientific journal Nature, found that the genetic make-up virus samples found in patients in China is 96 per cent identical to a coronavirus they found in bats.

However, there were not many bats at the market so scientists say it was likely there was an animal which acted as a middle-man, contracting it from a bat before then transmitting it to a human. It has not yet been confirmed what type of animal this was.

Dr Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, was not involved with the research but said: ‘The discovery definitely places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.

‘We still do not know whether another species served as an intermediate host to amplify the virus, and possibly even to bring it to the market, nor what species that host might have been.’  

So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it? 

Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.

It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans’ lungs. It is less deadly than SARS, however, which killed around one in 10 people, compared to approximately one in 50 for COVID-19.

Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they’ve never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.

Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: ‘Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.

‘Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we’re talking about a virus where we don’t understand fully the severity spectrum but it’s possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.’

If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die. 

‘My feeling is it’s lower,’ Dr Horby added. ‘We’re probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that’s the current circumstance we’re in.

‘Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.’

How does the virus spread?

The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.

It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky. It can also live on surfaces, such as plastic and steel, for up to 72 hours, meaning people can catch it by touching contaminated surfaces.

Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person. 

What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?

Once someone has caught the COVID-19 virus it may take between two and 14 days, or even longer, for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.

If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients will recover from these without any issues, and many will need no medical help at all.

In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people.

Figures are showing that young children do not seem to be particularly badly affected by the virus, which they say is peculiar considering their susceptibility to flu, but it is not clear why. 

What have genetic tests revealed about the virus? 

Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world. 

This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.   

Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.

However, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.

This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.   

More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.

How dangerous is the virus?  

The virus has a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.

Experts have been conflicted since the beginning of the outbreak about whether the true number of people who are infected is significantly higher than the official numbers of recorded cases. Some people are expected to have such mild symptoms that they never even realise they are ill unless they’re tested, so only the more serious cases get discovered, making the death toll seem higher than it really is.

However, an investigation into government surveillance in China said it had found no reason to believe this was true.

Dr Bruce Aylward, a World Health Organization official who went on a mission to China, said there was no evidence that figures were only showing the tip of the iceberg, and said recording appeared to be accurate, Stat News reported.

Can the virus be cured? 

The COVID-19 virus cannot be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.

Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can work, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.

No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it’s not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.

The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.

Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.

People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.

And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people’s temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).

However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.

Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?   

The outbreak was declared a pandemic on March 11. A pandemic is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘worldwide spread of a new disease’. 

Previously, the UN agency said most cases outside of Hubei had been ‘spillover’ from the epicentre, so the disease wasn’t actually spreading actively around the world.

Source: Read Full Article