Pandemic Origins - Overview

Goals

To understand the five largest novel pandemics in history by identifying their places of origin, number of deaths, and the process through which they spread from animals to humans.

Early Findings

  • The Justinian Plague took place between 541 and 542 AD. It was caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, and it is the first recorded plague pandemic caused by this microorganism.
  • The First Cholera Pandemic originated in India, in 1817. It spread through the entire Asian continent, across the Mediterranean, and it reached Europe, where it disappeared in 1823.
  • The Spanish Flu was caused by the H1N1 influenza A virus, a novel virus that caused an estimated 50 million deaths worldwide.
  • The Asian Flu was caused by a different strain of influenza A virus, the H2N2 strain, which resulted from H1N1 and avian viral genes, creating a new deadly virus.
  • The AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) pandemic started in 1981, and it is caused by the HIV virus. By 2018, it had been estimated that 32 million had died from this disease.

Proposed next steps:

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During our initial hour of research, we were able to identify the five largest novel pandemics in history. We propose performing further research to provide information regarding where they originated, what animals -if any- were involved in the transmission of the disease, how the pandemic spread around the world (e.g. increased traveling, war, commerce), the total number of estimated deaths caused by the disease, containment methods used, and any vaccines or treatment developed as a result of the pandemic.
In addition, we are suggesting research that provides 2-3 trends regarding the emergence of future pandemics. For each trend, we could 1) describe what it is, 2) explain why it is relevant (why we chose it), and 3) provide 2-3 expert opinions that support it.