The History of Epidemics


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Influenza epidemic in United States. St. Louis, Missouri, Red Cross Motor Corps on duty, October 1918. (National Archives)

Chiara Douglas, Reporter

Since the 1600s, many pandemics have hit the world and changed medicine forever. From developing new cures to refining yearly vaccinations, scientists have made their way through the realm of science and put an end to the death of millions globally. Although there have been many breakthroughs in medicine, there have also been several defeats. The question is… will a cure be found for Coronavirus?

As one of the most dangerous epidemics in US history, Smallpox struck from 1633-1634. According to SA Health, victims of Smallpox would experience flu-like symptoms along with a very painful, large-spread rash. As this epidemic began in the Northeast, 70 percent of the Native American population dropped, and a cure was not created until 1770. As of now, Smallpox remains dormant, and no vaccines are needed.

Following Smallpox, a disease that originated from the Carribean Islands, Yellow Fever, killed about 5,000 people. This disease caused a fever, bloody vomiting, and yellow skin. Although there is no cure, scientists produced a vaccine that lasts a lifetime.

In more recent years, the Spanish Flu, which overpowered America in 1918, stole the lives of about 675,000 bystanders. As the virus continues to mutate yearly, it stood dormant for a few years, and then came back in 1957. Since this virus is considered to be airborne (contracted through coughing, sneezing, etc), similar to today’s pandemic, the government and public health officials prevented public gatherings and other crowds. As there is no cure, it is recommended that you get a yearly vaccination.

As seen from previous epidemics, scientists typically find a vaccine, and death rates begin to relax… but will this happen with Covid-19? Every plague has an origin, but what is Coronaviruses? There are many conspiracies around the starting point… Some believe it came from a bat, and others think that it was planned, and came from a chemical plant. Similarly to Covid-19, unlikely fads are created. During the Spanish Flu, it was believed that consuming coal oil would cure their illness. In relation, individuals in today’s society believe that consuming bleach and elevated levels of alcohol will rid of their likeliness to contract the disease… as you would believe, it has the opposite effect. This further relays the question… will there be a cure, and when will we get it?

As of now, scientists are trying their best to create a treatment for the Coronavirus. There is no current treatment, but there is active research and testing. According to BBC News, about 80 groups around the world are committing active research, and some are beginning to conduct clinical trials. Many of those groups are immediately testing humans, rather than animals. Although vaccines can take years to create and revise, experts believe that a sufficient vaccine will be developed by mid-2021… about twelve to eighteen months after the virus first emerged.