Timeline of plague

Last updated

This is a timeline of plague , describing major epidemics and key medical developments.


Key developments

Time periodKey developments
3500–3000 BC (circa)In 2018 a Swedish tomb was excavated and discovered to harbor evidence of Yersinia pestis within the interred human remains. The estimated date of this individual's death is correlated to a period of European history known as the Neolithic decline; the presence of plague in the remains is evidence for the plague as a potential cause of this event. [1] [2] [3]
541–750 (circa)The first plague pandemic spreads from Egypt to the Mediterranean (starting with the Plague of Justinian) and Northwestern Europe. [4]
1346–1840The second plague pandemic spreads from China (questionable) to the Mediterranean and Europe. [4] The Black Death of 1346–1353 is considered to be unparalleled in human history. [5] [6] From 1347 to 1665, the Black Death is responsible for about a million of deaths in Europe. [7]
1866–1960sThe third plague pandemic, which originated in China, results in about 2.2 million deaths. [7] The plague spread to India and killed a total of 22.5 million people under the British rule. Haffkine develops the first vaccine against bubonic plague. [8] Antibiotic drugs are developed in the 1940s which dramatically reduce the death rate from plague. [9]
1950–2000Plague cases are massively reduced during the second half of the 20th century. However, outbreaks would still occur, especially in developing countries. Between 1954 and 1997, human plague is reported in 38 countries, making the disease a remerging threat to human health. [7] Also, between 1987 and 2001, 36,876 confirmed cases of plague with 2,847 deaths are reported to the World Health Organization. [10]
Recent yearsIn the 21st century, fewer than 200 people die of the plague worldwide each year, mainly due to lack of treatment. [11] Plague is considered to be endemic in 26 countries around the world, with most cases found in remote areas of Africa. [12] The three most endemic countries are Madagascar, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Peru. [13]

Graphs of modern outbreaks

Full timeline

Year/PeriodEvent typeEventPresent-day geographic location
430 BCEpidemic Plague of Athens devastates the city's population. The outbreak originated in Ethiopia and spread to the Mediterranean region through Egypt and Libya. [16] Greece, Mediterranean basin
224 BCPlague infection is first recorded in China. [17] China
165–180 ADEpidemic Antonine Plague, also known as the plague of Galen, the Greek physician living in the Roman Empire who described it. It is suspected to have been smallpox or measles. The total deaths have been estimated at five million and the disease killed as much as one-third of the population in some areas and devastated the Roman army. Iraq, Italy, France, Germany
250–270 ADEpidemic Plague of Cyprian breaks out in Rome. It is estimated to kill about 5000 people a day. [16] Italy
540 ADEpidemicPlague epidemic originates in Ethiopia spreads to Pelusium in Egypt. [18] Ethiopia, Egypt
541–542 ADEpidemicThe Plague of Justinian, considered the first recorded pandemic, breaks out and develops as an extended epidemic in the Mediterranean basin. According to some, frequent outbreaks over the next two hundred years would eventually kill an estimated 25 million people. [7] [19] This number has recently been disputed. [20] Mediterranean Basin
542 ADEpidemicThe plague arrives in Constantinople (now Istanbul). By spring of 542, about 5,000 deaths per day in the city are calculated, although some estimates vary to 10,000 per day. The epidemic would go on to kill over a third of the city's population. [18] Turkey
543 ADEpidemicAfter passing from Italy to Syria, Palestine, and Iraq, plague reaches Iran. [10] Iran
627 ADEpidemicA large epidemic of plague breaks out in Ctesiphon, the capital of the Sasanian Empire, killing more than 100,000 people. [10] Iran
1334EpidemicThe second plague pandemic breaks out in China (questionable). Widely known as the "Black Death" or the Great Plague, it is regarded as one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 75 to 200 million people in Eurasia. [19] [6] Eurasia
1338–1339Bubonic plague is reported in central Asia. [21]
1345Plague occurs in southern Russia, around the lower Volga River basin. [22] [23] Russia
1346EpidemicBubonic plague breaks out in India (questionable). [21] China, India
1347EpidemicThe plague spreads to Constantinople, a major port city. It also infects the Black Sea port of Kaffa down from southern Russia. [23] [21] Turkey, Ukraine
1347EpidemicItalian traders bring the plague in rat-infested ships from Constantinople to Sicily, which becomes the first place in Europe to suffer the Black death epidemic. The same year, Venice is also hit. [11] Italy
1347–1350Medical developmentDuring the 1347–1350 outbreak, doctors are completely unable to prevent or cure the plague. Some of the cures they try include cooked onions, ten-year-old treacle, arsenic, crushed emeralds, sitting in the sewers, sitting in a room between two enormous fires, fumigating the house with herbs, trying to stop God punishing the sick for their sin. Flagellants would go on processions whipping themselves. [24] Europe
1348Medical developmentItalian writer Giovanni Boccaccio in his book Decameron writes a description of symptoms of the plague. [18] Italy
1348–1350EpidemicThe Black Death arrives at Melcombe Regis in the south of England. Over the next year, the plague spreads into Northern England, Wales and Ireland. By 1350, the plague reaches Scotland. The estimated death toll for the British Isles is calculated at 3.2 million. [25] United Kingdom, Ireland
1349Genocide Black Death Jewish persecutions. A rumor rises claiming that Jews are responsible for the plague as an attempt to kill Christians and dominate the world. Supported by a widely distributed report of the trial of Jews who supposedly had poisoned wells in Switzerland, the rumor spreads quickly. As a result, a wave of pogroms against Jews breaks out. Christians start to attack Jews in their communities, burning their homes, and murder them with clubs and axes. In the Strasbourg massacre, it is estimated that people locked up and burned 900 Jews alive. Finally, Pope Clement VI issues a religious order to stop the violence against the Jews, claiming that the plague is "the result of an angry God striking at the Christian people for their sins." [11] France, Switzerland
1351Epidemic Black Death epidemic reaches Russia, attacking Novgorod and reaching Pskov, before being temporarily suppressed by the Russian winter. [5] Russia
1352EpidemicThe plague reaches Moscow. [5] Russia
1361–1364Medical developmentDuring an outbreak, doctors learn how to help the patient recover by bursting the buboes. [24]
1374EpidemicBlack Death epidemic re-emerges in Europe. In Venice, various public health controls such as isolating victims from healthy people and preventing ships with disease from landing at port are instituted. [18] Europe
1377Program launchThe Republic of Ragusa establishes a landing station for vessels far from the city and harbour in which travellers suspected to have the plague must spend thirty days, to see whether they became ill and died or whether they remained healthy and could leave. [18] Croatia
1403After finding thirty days isolation to be too short, Venice dictates that travellers from the Levant in the eastern Mediterranean be isolated in a hospital for forty days, the quarantena or quaranta giorni, from which the term quarantine is derived. [18] Italy
1582–1583EpidemicA new outbreak of bubonic plague occurs, in the Canary Islands, mainly affecting the city of San Cristóbal de La Laguna on the island of Tenerife. Between 5,000 and 9,000 people die, a considerable number considering that the population of the island at the time was less than 20,000 inhabitants. [26] [27] [28] Spain
1629–1631EpidemicThe Italian plague of 1629–1631 develops as a series of outbreaks of bubonic plague. About 280,000 people are estimated to be killed in Lombardy and other territories of Northern Italy. [29] The Italian plague is estimated to have claimed between 35 and 69 percent of the local population. [17] Italy
1637EpidemicPlague breaks out in Andalusia, killing about 20,000 people in less than four months. [30] Spain
1647–1652EpidemicPlague ravages Spain. About 30,000 die in Valencia. The great Plague of Seville breaks out. [30] Spain
1665–1666Epidemic Great Plague of London. 100,000 people are killed within 18 months. [31] United Kingdom
1679EpidemicThe Great Plague of Vienna kills at least 76,000 people. [32] Austria
1720EpidemicThe Great Plague of Marseille kills more than 100,000 people in the French city of Marseille. Marseille, France
1722PublicationDaniel Defoe publishes A Journal of the Plague Year , a fictional account of the Great Plague of London in 1665. This novel is often read as non-fiction. [33] United Kingdom
1738Epidemic Great Plague of 1738 kills at least 36,000 people. [34] Romania, Hungary, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Austria
1772–1850EpidemicThe human plague is reported intermittently in the Chinese province of Yunnan, where the third plague pandemic would begin in the 1860s. [7] [35] China
1867EpidemicThe plague spreads from Yunnan Province to Beihai on the Chinese coastline. [7] China
1869EpidemicThe plague is observed in Taiwan. [7] Taiwan
1894EpidemicThe plague spreads to Guangdong and results in the death of about 70,000 people. [36] [7] China
1894Scientific developmentWorking independently, both French bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin and Japanese bacteriologist Shibasaburo Kitasato isolate the bacterium that causes bubonic plague. Yersin discovers that rodents are the mode of infection. The bacterium is named yersinia pestis after Yersin. [7] [18]
1896–1897Medical developmentRussian bacteriologist Waldemar Haffkine successfully protects rabbits against an inoculation of virulent plague microbes, by treating them previously with a subcutaneous injection of a culture of the microbes in broth. The first vaccine for bubonic plague is developed. The rabbits treated in this way become immune to plague. In the next year, Haffkine causes himself to be inoculated with a similar preparation, thus proving in his own person the harmlessness of the fluid. This is considered the first vaccine against bubonic plague. [8] India (Bombay)
1899EpidemicPlague is first introduced in Latin America in Paraguay, followed by Brazil and Argentina in the same year. [12] Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina
1901EpidemicPlague infection is first reported in Uruguay. [12] Uruguay
1902EpidemicPlague infection is first reported in Mexico. [12] Mexico
1903EpidemicPlague infection is first reported in Chile and Peru. [12] Chile, Peru
1905EpidemicPlague infection is first reported in Panama. [12] Panama
1908EpidemicPlague infection is first reported in Ecuador and Venezuela. [12] Ecuador, Venezuela
1910Epidemic Manchurian plague breaks out, killing about 60,000 people over the course of a year. [37] China
1912EpidemicPlague infection is first reported in Cuba and Puerto Rico. [12] Cuba, Puerto Rico
1921EpidemicPlague infection is first reported in Bolivia. [12] Bolivia
1924–1925Epidemic Plague breaks out in Los Angeles. 32 people get infected and only 2 survive. It is the last rat-borne epidemic occurring in the United States. [38] United States
1928Medical developmentAntibiotics developed United Kingdom
1947PublicationFrench novelist Albert Camus publishes The Plague , a novel about a fictional outbreak of plague in Oran, Algeria. The book helps to show the effects the plague has on a populace. [39] France
1994Epidemic Plague in India. The country experiences a large outbreak of pneumonic plague after 30 years with no reports of the disease. 693 suspected bubonic or pneumonic plague cases are reported. [10] [40] India
1995–1998EpidemicFrom 1995 to 1998, annual outbreaks of plague were witnessed in Mahajanga, Madagascar. [41] Madagascar
2003EpidemicAn outbreak of plague is reported in Algeria, in an area considered plague-free for 50 years. [10] Algeria
2006EpidemicIn June 2006, one hundred deaths resulting from pneumonic plague were reported in Ituri district of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Control of the plague was proving difficult due to the ongoing conflict. [42] Democratic Republic of the Congo
2009InfectionPlague is reported in Libya, after 25 years without a case of the disease. [10] Libya
2014Scientific developmentResearchers at Duke University School of Medicine and Duke-NUS Medical School Singapore find the Yersinia pestis bacteria to hitchhike on immune cells in the lymph nodes and eventually ride into the lungs and the blood stream, thus spreading bubonic plague effectively to others. Singapore
2014–2018Epidemic Outbreaks in Madagascar Madagascar

See also

Related Research Articles

Black Death Mid-14th century pandemic in Eurasia and North Africa

The Black Death was the deadliest pandemic recorded in human history. The Black Death resulted in the deaths of up to 75–200 million people in Eurasia and North Africa, peaking in Europe from 1347 to 1351. Plague, the disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, was the cause; Y. pestis infection most commonly results in bubonic plague, but can cause septicaemic or pneumonic plagues.

Plague (disease) Specific contagious and frequently fatal human disease caused by Yersinia pestis

Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Symptoms include fever, weakness and headache. Usually this begins one to seven days after exposure. In the bubonic form there is also swelling of lymph nodes, while in the septicemic form tissues may turn black and die, and in the pneumonic form shortness of breath, cough and chest pain may occur.

Pandemic Global epidemic of infectious disease

A pandemic is an epidemic of an infectious disease that has spread across a large region, for instance multiple continents or worldwide, affecting a substantial number of people. A widespread endemic disease with a stable number of infected people is not a pandemic. Widespread endemic diseases with a stable number of infected people such as recurrences of seasonal influenza are generally excluded as they occur simultaneously in large regions of the globe rather than being spread worldwide.

<i>Yersinia pestis</i> Species of bacteria, cause of plague

Yersinia pestis is a gram-negative, non-motile, rod-shaped, coccobacillus bacterium, with no spores. It is a facultative anaerobic organism that can infect humans via the Oriental rat flea. It causes the disease plague, which takes three main forms: pneumonic, septicemic, and bubonic.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome Respiratory disease caused by the SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV)

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a viral respiratory disease of zoonotic origin caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus, the first-identified strain of the SARS coronavirus species severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (SARSr-CoV). The syndrome caused the 2002–2004 SARS outbreak. In late 2017, Chinese scientists traced the virus through the intermediary of Asian palm civets to cave-dwelling horseshoe bats in Yunnan.

Plague of Justinian Pandemic that afflicted the Byzantine Empire, and later northern Europe

The Plague of Justinian or Justinianic Plague was the beginning of the first plague pandemic, the first Old World pandemic of plague, the contagious disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. The disease afflicted the entire Mediterranean Basin, Europe, and the Near East, severely affecting the Sasanian Empire and the Roman Empire and especially its capital, Constantinople. The plague is named for the Roman emperor in Constantinople, Justinian I, who according to his court historian Procopius contracted the disease and recovered in 542, at the height of the epidemic which killed about a fifth of the population in the imperial capital. The contagion arrived in Roman Egypt in 541 and spread around the Mediterranean Sea until 544; in Northern Europe and the Arabian Peninsula, persisting until 549.

Ovine rinderpest, also commonly known as peste des petits ruminants (PPR), is a contagious disease primarily affecting goats and sheep; however, camels and wild small ruminants can also be affected. PPR is currently present in North, Central, West and East Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. It is caused by small ruminants morbillivirus in the genus Morbillivirus, and is closely related to, among others, rinderpest morbillivirus, measles morbillivirus, and canine morbillivirus. The disease is highly contagious, and can have an 80–100% mortality rate in acute cases in an epidemic setting. This virus does not infect humans.

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Bubonic plague Human and animal disease

Bubonic plague is one of three types of plague caused by bacterium Yersinia pestis. One to seven days after exposure to the bacteria, flu-like symptoms develop. These symptoms include fever, headaches, and vomiting. Swollen and painful lymph nodes occur in the area closest to where the bacteria entered the skin. Occasionally, the swollen lymph nodes may break open.

Social distancing Infection control technique

In public health, social distancing, also called physical distancing, is a set of non-pharmaceutical interventions or measures intended to prevent the spread of a contagious disease by maintaining a physical distance between people and reducing the number of times people come into close contact with each other. It typically involves keeping a certain distance from others and avoiding gathering together in large groups.

John S. Marr American writer and doctor

John S Marr is an American physician, epidemiologist, and author. His professional life has concerned outbreaks of infectious disease and thus his subsequent writing career has focused on that topic, particularly historical epidemics.

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Globally about 600 cases of plague are reported a year. In 2017 and November 2019 the countries with the most cases include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, and Peru.

Plague epidemics in Malta

Several epidemics from the plague struck Malta from the medieval era until 1945, claiming almost 20,000 victims in at least ten epidemics over 350 years. After the first epidemics, preventive measures were installed, including a very active lazaret which issued patents of non-contagion for many ships plying the Mediterranean.

Manchurian plague

The Manchurian plague was a pneumonic plague that occurred between 1910 and 1911. It mainly hit the area of Manchuria, although some cases were reported in other places like Peking and Tianjin. Since there was no vaccine, the plague was very deadly, with estimates that it killed around 60,000 people, including doctors and nurses.

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