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Deadly Viruses In Human History Apart From COVID-19

Coronavirus or COVID-19 has caused thousands of deaths worldwide and infected millions. It’s not the first-time humans have been battling with viruses as many deadly viruses in history have created distress across the globe and killed millions.

1. Ebola

Ebola virus disease is regarded as a deadly disease and it has infected people from time to time. It was first discovered in the year 1976 in Central Africa, and since then it has affected several African countries. Studies suggest that Ebola virus is animal-borne and has come from bats and nonhuman primates such as monkeys and chimpanzees. Ebola has been infecting humans for 40 years to date. Symptoms of Ebola virus include fever, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, unexplained haemorrhaging, weakness and bleeding.[1]

2. Hantavirus

It is a family of viruses that spread mainly by rodents such as cotton rats and deer mouse. The infection is spread through an aerosolised virus that shed mainly in faeces, urine or saliva of the infected host. Hantavirus was first recognised in the year 1993 in the southwestern United States. Symptoms of hantavirus include high fever, body ache, chills, breath shortness, fluid in the lungs and haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome.


The outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS occurred in November 2002 in Southern China but was identified first in the year 2003. It is a zoonotic disease that has spread through bats and civet cats. The latest COVID-19 is believed to be similar to SARS-CoV. It spread mainly through human-to-human transmission via respiratory secretions and faeces. Symptoms of SARS-CoV include shortness of breath, diarrhoea and severe respiratory diseases.

4. Rabies

It is a fatal and neglected disease that spreads mainly through the bite or scratch of wild animals such as foxes, raccoons, bats, dogs and skunks. When these wild animals bite, the rabies virus infects the central nervous system and without proper treatment, the virus spreads to the brain and cause death. The first record of rabies was found in 2300 BC in the Mosaic Esmuna Code of Babylon. For the last 100 years rabies is aroundhumans.

5. Cocoliztli

It is regarded as the worst viral disease in the history of Mexico. According to a journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, Cocoliztli first occurred in the mid- 16th century and was transmitted by rodents. The disease became aggravated due to extreme drought in Mexico and killed around 17 million people. Symptoms of Cocoliztli include haemorrhagic fever, black tongue, dark urine, neurologic disorders, bleeding from eyes and nose and ultimately death. [4]

6. Measles

It is an infectious and highly contagious disease that mainly causes infection of the skin, respiratory system and immune system. Measles is caused by the measles virus which is closely related to the pathogen of cattle. The virus usually infects children and spreads by respiration or aerosol. It was first reported in the year 1765 in the US. According to the WHO, the vaccine of measles was first introduced in 1963 and until then, the death rate was 2.6 million per year. [5]

7. Bird Flu

It is caused by the influenza virus and transmitted to humans by sick birds like wild duck or chicken.

8. Smallpox

It is a contagious disease caused by the variola virus. Smallpox is believed to have come from the African rodent poxvirus.

9. Dengue

It is a mosquito-borne disease caused by dengue virus. Dengue is transmitted by the bite of female Aedes mosquito.

10. Spanish Flu

It is regarded as one of the deadly influenza pandemics. Spanish flu has originated from the gene of the avian origin or through birds.

11. Machupo Virus

It is an infectious disease caused by rodents. Machupo disease has caused epidemic of haemorrhagic fever in South and Central America.

12. HIV

Human Immunodeficiency virus is widely believed to have crossed species from chimpanzees to humans. Still, there’s no cure for HIV.

13. Rotavirus

It usually infects infants and young children. Rotavirus is caused by domestic and wild animals like bats, rodents and birds.

14. Polio

It is an infectious disease that causes paralysis to humans. Researchers believe that polio had come from monkeys.

15. Swine Flu

It is a disease caused by swine influenza viruses. Swine is caused by H1N1 strain which is found in pigs. It has caused a pandemic in the year 2009.