The 10 Deadliest Diseases

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07 Oct 09 at 02 54 pm | posted by FairDinkum
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The 10 Deadliest Diseases
Not all humans fear death? After all the strong presence of religious belief in most people's minds has largely worked to glorify it and to a large extent turned it into something desirable. However, there is one thing that petrifies even the most ardent lovers of glorious demise and that is Disease, for it is something that every human being dreads. Amongst the large number of ranking criterion possible for diseases, I was compelled to use prolificacy, so here it goes:

Scarlet Fever

Although it is rarely fatal today, Scarlet Fever is one of the worst child killers in history. In 1860s, the mortality rate from Scarlet Fever was as high as 972 per million. Throughout the 19th century, pandemics frequently swept across Europe causing as many as 25 % of all recorded deaths during the period.


Another cleanliness associated malady, typhus epidemics tend to follow wars and natural disasters, when generally the sanitation and hygiene standards go down. It is transmitted by lice and was thus common in congested environments like jail, barracks etc. Typhus was especially notorious for it effects on armies and was the main reason for Napoleon's retreat from Russia. An epidemic in Eastern Europe during World War I took 3 million, but the disease was controlled with the development of a vaccine during World War II. Sporadic outbreaks however still occur in developing countries to date.


Another cleanliness associated malady, typhus epidemics tend to follow wars and natural disasters, when generally the sanitation and hygiene standards go down. It is transmitted by lice and was thus common in congested environments like jail, barracks etc. Typhus was especially notorious for it effects on armies and was the main reason for Napoleon?s retreat from Russia. An epidemic in Eastern Europe during World War I took 3 million, but the disease was controlled with the development of a vaccine during World War II. Sporadic outbreaks however still occur in developing countries to date.


A disease associated with the quality and cleanliness of food and water, Cholera has predictably taken its toll on the third world. It has a low mortality rate when taken care of but if left untreated, it is likely to dehumanize the victim before death. Cholera epidemics have historically occurred with regularity and have taken more than 40 millions victims, with the death toll for a current epidemic in Zimbabwe surpassing 3000.


Barring a cure, AIDS will some day climb up to the top of this list. This consequence of collective human sin has taken 25 million victims since it emerged in 1981. 40 million people are currently living with the infection and 14,000 are added every day. Sadly, AIDS is far from being the biggest current global problem with the most attention and capital being dedicated towards securing economies and fighting terrorists.

Black Death

The Black Death or Bubonic Plague was a pandemic of history shaping proportions. Originating from Asia in the early 14th century, it devastated up to 60 % of the European population; a total of around 100 million people. Grim illustrations of people covered in buboes have become synonymous with the middle ages. The massive outbreak and resultant death toll also served to dent the faith healing myths and enticed intellectuals into researching scientific cures for diseases. Somewhat worryingly, the exact microbial cause of the pandemic has not been determined yet so a future occurrence might still be possible.


Tuberculosis or Consumption as it was historically known has been a consistent killer. Although it has resulted in around 100 million fatalities in the 20th century, the mortality rates have been steadily falling down, owing to advancements in treatment. However, it still accounts for around 1.5 millions deaths each year and along with its cousin the Whooping Cough, remains a leading cause of human demise.

Spanish Flu

Most of us dismiss flu as a commonly mild ailment but in its deadliest Spanish form, it killed anywhere between 50 to 100 million people. This fatal pandemic ravaged world populations during the war years of 1918-1919 and disappeared as mysteriously as it had appeared; only after 18 months of action. However during that period, "La Grippe" had laid claim to being the most deadly pandemic in the history of mankind.


Smallpox didn't just kill, it wiped off entire cultures. Extremely contagious and lethal especially for children, most Smallpox survivors were left with characteristic facial scars, hence the term 'Pockmarked'. It reached its peak in the 20th century and is estimated to have killed up to 500 million people, despite the fact that a vaccine had been developed by Edward Jenner in 1796. However, a massive global eradication campaign initiated in the 1950s proved successful and by 1980, the world was declared Smallpox free.


The single greatest killer of humans in history, this malady has existed as long as mankind. In its present form, Malaria established a stronghold in Western Africa perhaps around 5000 years ago and gradually spread around the world. At its peak at the turn of the 20th century, it had decimated around 300 million globally in the past 100 years. Although malaria has now been virtually wiped out from Europe and Americas, it still accounts for more than a million deaths per annum; a vast majority of them in Sub-Saharan Africa.
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Comments (36)
  • Ring.
    forget it ! ebola anthrax and leprosy
  • Henry
    in my humble opinion, you guys dont know about diseases. ring was right
  • metin2yang
    thanks share your artic!
  • consumers
    The list is outdated to be frank. Would be happy to see list of 10 deadly and widespread diseases of 21st Century!
  • LOLgrl16666
    I really like it!
  • Darney w
    not much info on malaria
  • Mary

    Actually, we do know the microbial source of Bubonic Plague, It is Yersinia pestis.

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    On the plus side, it does give us a chance to prepare for such an eventuality, both in practical terms -- I'm thinking I need a ham radio and I need to learn morse code, for example -- and to make it clear to our congress critters NOW that we won't play that game.
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  • Zipper
    I'm sorry, seems everyone just glossed over the "collective human sin" nugget so casually dropped in there - IN BOLD PRINT. Just stumbled here on a search for infectious diseases - did not expect to see any judgmental commentary on human behavior. Maybe "witchcraft" deserves a spot on this list, too... nutcase.
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    The good: noting how the Black death motivated scientific investigation of disease instead of faith healing. The bad: Entries 8 and 9 are the same. And the deeply, deeply ugly: Breezily asserting that AIDS is a "consequence of collective human sin". Just who do you think you are to level such an obscene insult at humankind? Kindly keep your fatuous, superstitious nonsense to yourself.
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    @Zipper:Right on...I felt a murderous rage for the author when I read that breezy assertion. What a despicable thing to say.
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    @maureen elias joseph:Smallpox One of the deadliest diseases in history was fortunately eradicated by 1980 as a result of worldwide vaccination campaign. It is impossible to tell how many people died from smallpox but only during the 20th century, the disease is estimated to claim from 300 to 500 million lives. But despite the fact that no new cases were reported since 1980, there are concerns that it could be used for biological warfare as the smallpox virus is still kept in laboratories in the United States and Russia. Bubonic plague The disease which was responsible for the so-called Black Death which reached its height between 1348 and 1350 killed about one third of the population in medieval Europe. It is caused by a bacterium called Yersinia pestis which is today successfully treated with antibiotics. Bubonic plague is extremely rare but occasional outbreaks still occur. The plague bacteria is transmitted to humans through bites of flea that previously fed on an infected animal, usually rat or other rodent. Spanish flu The deadliest flu pandemic in recorded history that spread throughout the world at the end of World War I in 1918 is thought to kill about one third of world%u2019s population. The flu pandemic was caused by H1N1 influenza virus, the same strain that caused the so-called swine flu pandemic in 2009. Fortunately, the black scenario did not happen and in August 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the end of the swine flu pandemic. Seasonal flu Every year, seasonal flu claims about 500,000 lives worldwide despite the availability of flu vaccine which has been shown to be an effective preventive measure. The disease which can be caused by one of three influenza viruses called A, B and C is especially dangerous for young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with chronic illnesses and weakened immune system. Otherwise healthy people usually recover within a few days. Tuberculosis The disease which is most often caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis could pose a major health concern in the future worldwide due to increased antibiotic resistance of the tuberculosis bacteria. The disease which spreads through tiny droplets of saliva which are released into the air when an infected person sneezes, coughs or talks is most common in Asia and Africa. In 2010, tuberculosis killed about 1,5 million people, mostly in the developing countries. Malaria The disease which is caused by a parasite from the genus Plasmodium is responsible for about 1 million deaths worldwide every year. It is transmitted through a bite of an infected mosquito and is often fatal for young children. It is rare outside the tropical areas but there are concerns that it could spread to temperate areas in case of climate change. No vaccine has been developed so far, while the available treatments are not always effective. Cholera This bacterial disease spreads through contaminated water and kills more about 100,000 people every year. It has been virtually eliminated in the developed countries but it is still relatively common in poor countries where people often live in crowded and unhygienic conditions. It can easily be treated by rehydration, intravenous fluids and if necessary, antibiotics. It is crucial, however, to receive medical help promptly because death can occur in a matter of hours. HIV/AIDS The systemic autoimmune disease which is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has killed more than 25 million people worldwide since it was first discovered in 1981. The condition cannot be cured but new medications have dramatically reduced death rate in the developed countries. In poor nations where health care is accessible only to the wealthy minority, mortality rate remains extremely high. Safe sex and the use of sterile needles remain the only HIV prevention measures. Ebola This type of hemorrhagic fever is caused by one of four known ebolaviruses and causes sporadic outbreaks in Africa. It has not killed as many people as the above mentioned diseases, however, it is almost always fatal. A few people that survived the deadly disease needed months to recover completely. No cure or vaccine exists for ebola which spreads through contact with infected blood and body secretions. Cancer The disease which meets all the criteria of pandemic except that it is not contagious is currently the most deadly disease in the world. According to the WHO, as many as 7.6 million people died from cancer worldwide in 2008. It can often be cured if discovered and treated early but unfortunately, many types of cancer do not cause any signs or symptoms until the disease has progressed. According to some experts, every third person will develop cancer at some point of life.
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