50 Interesting Facts About Disease Outbreaks

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26Monkeypox Outbreak

During the 2003 Monkeypox outbreak, there were no documented human-to-human transmissions. Instead, all 71 afflicted parties got infected from prairie dogs. The prairie dogs were likely infected by Gambian pouched rats while they were housed at the same Illinois exotic pet store.


27. According to a research paper published in 1973, an outbreak of the common cold occurred at an Antarctic base after seventeen weeks of complete isolation.


28. During the Holocaust, Polish doctors Eugene Lazowski and Stanisław Matulewicz saved 8,000 Jews by creating a fake Typhus epidemic. The Germans quarantined the area instead of risking outbreaks by sending them to concentration camps.


29. In 2004, Chi-Chi's restaurant chain was hit with the largest hepatitis A outbreak in U.S. history, with at least four deaths and 660 other victims a month after filing for bankruptcy.


30. In the 1980s, when a baboon troop was hit by an outbreak of tuberculosis killing all of its aggressive alpha males, the remaining passive males which were bullied by previous alpha males transformed the troop from an aggressive and violent troop into a peaceful one. This kind of behavior was never observed before.


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31Romanian Plague Outbreak

During a plague outbreak in Romania in 1813, plague sufferers were buried alive. One undertaker squad reported, “we collected 15 dead today, but only buried 14 because one of them ran away.”


32. “The Great Epizootic of 1872” was a massive outbreak of equine influenza. Boston suffered a major downtown fire during that time in part because firemen had to pull the equipment by hand instead of using horses, as they were all incapacitated by the epidemic. This disease killed over 69,000 horses and over 10,000 mules.


33. Smallpox was almost eradicated when an outbreak at the University of Birmingham happened in 1978. Janet Parker, the last smallpox victim, died a month later and Henry Bedson, head of the School killed himself “victim of his own dedicated conscientiousness and his extreme sense of responsibility.”


34. About 30 men were drafted to burn the bodies of those who had died from Ebola in Liberia, where cremation is a huge cultural taboo. Despite playing a large role in stopping the 2014 Ebola outbreak, the 30 “Ebola burners” are still shunned in their communities and even by their families.


35. There was a massive outbreak of syphilis in the affluent county of Rockdale in Georgia in the 1990s. The outbreak affected nearly 200 high school teens. The teens were having sex parties fuelled by various drugs and alcohol. The cause of the outbreak was a transient man joining the sex parties.


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361952 Polio Outbreak

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). With his invention, the mortality rate fell to 26%.


37. In 1993, Jack in the Box caused the most infamous food poison outbreak in contemporary history. 732 people were infected with E. coli, 4 children died and 178 other victims were left with permanent injury including kidney and brain damage.


38. The Manhattan Company, a New York bank from the 18th to 19th Centuries, caused massive outbreaks of cholera in New York by supplying sewage-laden water. They later became JP Morgan.


39. While Hepatitis B shots are a federal requirement for school children, Hepatitis A shots are left to the states to decide. Hepatitis A has the more common outbreaks when someone who is infected doesn’t wash their hands and then handles food or surfaces.


40. Improperly handled raw milk is responsible for nearly three times more hospitalizations than any other food-borne disease outbreak, making it one of the world’s most dangerous food products.


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41Diphtheria Outbreak

The Iditarod dog sled race started out as a real relay dog race in 1925 to transport fresh diphtheria antitoxin to the remote town of Nome, Alaska to quell an outbreak. It used to take 15-20 days to make the trip and this time it took only 5 days.


42. In 2011, contestants in a Utah rodeo queen contest were forced to use stick ponies due to an outbreak of horse herpes.


43. In 2014, scientists found a giant 30,000-year-old virus in Siberian permafrost. The virus, Pithovirus sibericum, was still infectious and began killing amoebas. This raised concerns that melting or drilling arctic ice could unearth previously undiscovered pathogenic virus outbreaks.


44. The ‘patient zero’ of the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak was a Guinean child who played with bats residing in a hollow cola tree. It is unknown whether the bats were the ultimate source of the infection since either by coincidence or as a result of that public warning, the tree was burnt down.


45. Salem witch trials were in part caused by an outbreak of ergot, a fungus that grows on rye and causes hallucinations.


46Laughter Epidemic Outbreak

In 1962, there was an outbreak of mass hysteria in the nation of Tanzania where Thousands of people would laugh for days or even weeks and this hysteria then spread to Uganda. Victims would also suffer from crying attacks, pain, fainting, and random screaming and violence. Blood tests were sent to Europe and concluded nothing abnormal. The episodes lasted several hours to up to 16 days in recurring attacks.


47. The New York City Dept of Health and researchers from Columbia University monitor foodborne illness outbreaks by using a machine learning computer system that searches Yelp for keywords and phrases such as “got sick,” “vomit,” “diarrhea,” and “food poisoning.”


48. The Moscow plague riot of 1771 was caused by an outbreak of bubonic plague. The city’s economy was mostly paralyzed because industries had been closed down. All of this was followed by acute food shortages, leading to huge crowds rioting, and demands for the elimination of quarantines.


49. Oysters can get Herpes. The deadly virus killed 80-100% of affected oyster beds in France in the last few years. An outbreak in England killed over 8 million oysters.


50. Over 1,300 schools in the US were closed in 2009 in response to the H1N1 Swine Flu outbreak.

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