20 Facts You Need to Know About Pandemics


11952 Polio Epidemic

1952 Polio Epidemic

During the 1952 polio epidemic in Denmark, the mortality rate was over 85% due to a shortage of respirators. Dr. Bjorn Ibsen invented a new kind of ventilator, proved it worked, and then recruited thousands of volunteers to hand-pump them for weeks (they were fully manual). Due to his invention, the mortality rate fell to 26%.



During the Black Death, incoming ships were forced to wait for 40 days to prevent possible infection. The Italian word for 40, “quaranta”, is where we get the word “quarantine.”

3John Martin Poyer

John Martin Poyer

During the 1918 flu pandemic, the Governor of American Samoa John Martin Poyer quarantined the territory. American Samoa was one of the few places in the world to not suffer any flu deaths.

4Black Death

Black Death

The Black Death resulted in a stronger and longer-living human population. Scientists examined the bones of those who died before and after the plague and determined that people who were born after were stronger and more fit.

5Safety Coffins

Safety Coffins

During the cholera epidemic of the 19th century ‘safety coffins’ were developed because of people’s fear of being buried alive when they lapsed into a deathlike state from cholera.

61918 Flu Pandemic

1918 Flu Pandemic

During the 1918 flu pandemic, 62 Boston prisoners volunteered to be injected with infected tissue and sprayed with infectious aerosols with a promise of release if they survived. All of the prisoners lived, but the ward doctor died soon after.

7Black Death

Black Death

During the first outbreak of the Black Death in France in 1348, cities ran out of consecrated ground to bury the dead in so quickly that Pope, Clement VI, had to bless the entire Rhone river to allow corpses to be legally dumped in it.

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8Hong Kong Flu Virus

Hong Kong Flu Virus

The 1968 Pandemic caused by the H3N2 virus and commonly referred to as the Hong Kong Flu Virus, was an extremely contagious virus with a low fatality rate that originated in China and was widespread in the United States about five months later. It struck in two waves, with the second being more deadly.

9Third Plague Pandemic

Third Plague Pandemic

The Third Plague Pandemic was an outbreak of bubonic plague that killed 15 million people between 1855-1960. In Hong Kong, where the bacterium responsible was identified as yersinia pestis, the plague recurred every year for 30 years.

10Influenza Pandemic

Influenza Pandemic

The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919 is known as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history, in that it killed more people in 1 year than during the 4 years of the Black Plague. It was most deadly for people aged 20-40 and many died within hours of contracting the virus.

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