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Not only the coronavirus: “Spanish fever”, Ebola, SARS and other terrible epidemics of the XXI century

On average, every ten years, the world is shaken by another outbreak of a disease that poses a threat to humanity. Epidemiologists throw up their hands: this is how it was and will be, only up to 650 thousand people die from flu every year. But medicine does not stand still, countries unite to resist the spread of a particular infection. A curious detail: far from all the viruses listed below, vaccines have been created.
Chinese pneumonia

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The world is almost in a panic because of the spread of the coronavirus. In late December, a new coronavirus infection was detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan. More than two months later, the geographical distribution covers 101 countries. In some cases, for example, in Italy, a quarantine was imposed until April 3, and schools were closed. Most employers sent employees to work from home. Meanwhile, the number of cases in the world has exceeded 110 thousand, and more than 4 thousand have become victims of coronavirus infection. The elderly are at risk, and less than one percent of children and adolescents are ill.

Mass events around the world are postponed or canceled one after another. And if in January, analysts predicted that the outbreak will go down in February, in March, quite different forecasts: by the summer, you should not expect a decrease in the activity of the virus, suggested the head of the special expert Commission of the state health Committee of China Zhong Nanshan. While it continues to spread around the world. There is no vaccine at the moment, only development is underway, which will then have to pass a series of tests in the laboratory and only after that – on living organisms. This does not inspire optimism for people who refuse to travel and massively buy medical masks and antibacterial agents. Can the latter fully protect against infection in the event of contact with a patient or objects with the virus on the surface? Honestly, I don’t think so.

If you think about the epidemics of recent decades, one of the most terrible in terms of the number of victims was Ebola. The outbreak began in West Africa in 2014. The death rate was up to 90% (!). Its victims were more than 13,000 people (this is only official data, the real figures are always higher). The highest death rates were recorded in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. In Russia, the victims were two laboratory assistants who punctured their skin carelessly during experiments, and thus became infected with the virus.

Signs of this dangerous viral infection include high fever and severe intoxication. Infected began vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, outer (in the literal sense of the word, the blood from his eyes) and internal bleeding. In many countries, it faded only two years later, although in the Congo, the epidemic continued into 2019. Last year, about three thousand people were infected there. The world’s media did not write much about it, so it seemed to many that Ebola was a thing of the past. In fact, who has assigned this outbreak the status of an emergency of international significance – in July 2019! The status was valid almost until the end of the year. It was only in November 2019 that the Ebola virus vaccine was approved. It received the status of a permitted medicine and began to be imported to African countries.

Another name for the disease is “severe acute respiratory syndrome”. The infection affected the lungs and was caused by such atypical pathogens as Legionella, Mycoplasma, chlamydia, viruses. The epidemic peaked in the spring of 2003 and initially spread to countries in South-East Asia. Soon, cases were recorded in 30 countries around the world. The victims were more than 900 people. In the same year of 2003, in the summer, the outbreak came to nothing.

It is known that the source of infection was bats. It is the same with the coronavirus: the source is considered to be bats and snakes-having mutated in their cells, the virus “moved” to humans. But here is a curious difference: 70% of those infected with SARS were young people. In the case of COVID -19, the majority of victims are people over 50 years of age with chronic diseases and weakened immune systems.

Avian influenza
In the same year 2003, avian influenza caused by the H5N1 virus became widespread. The source of infection was sick birds, cases of infection from person to person are extremely rare. The first confirmed case of infection was recorded in Hong Kong back in 1997, when its victims were 6 people — too small a number to talk about an outbreak. The virus became active years later. Infection is dangerous with complications, in particular, the development of viral pneumonia. According to who, 262 people from 16 countries have died from avian flu. And the main way to combat the spread was the slaughter of millions of poultry.

Cases of avian flu are periodically recorded in different countries. For example, this year an outbreak of H5N1 occurred on a poultry farm in Hunan province — no cases of human infection were recorded.
Swine flu
The H1N1 influenza a virus was detected in pigs as early as 1930. But everyone remembers the 2009-2010 pandemic. It all started in Mexico – where the first case of infection was recorded on March 18, 2009. And in April, who sounded the alarm, declaring a swine flu pandemic. The virus has spread to more than 200 countries. Young healthy people often became ill. According to who, about 18.5 thousand people became victims of the virus in 2009.

Russia was not spared by swine flu: the then chief state sanitary doctor of the Russian Federation Gennady Onishchenko declared in December 2009 about 21 thousand cases of a/H1N1 flu in our country. Only in 2010, the virus came to nothing, but doctors even then warned that the infection will periodically occur as a type of seasonal flu, which is ineradicable.

Spanish flu
And, of course, speaking of pandemics, we can not say about the Spanish flu epidemic, which swept the world immediately after the end of the First world war in 1918-1919. The numbers of victims are not comparable to the statistics of modern epidemics: more than 50,000,000 deaths (before that, cholera was the leader with its 20 million victims). Spaniard spread around the world at lightning speed, medical care could not afford not all, medicines were not enough, unsanitary conditions flourished. The morgues were filled to overflowing with corpses. People often died in the first day according to the scheme: chills, bloody cough, bluish face. “There was no time to treat patients, measure their temperature and pressure. People had such nosebleeds that blood was shooting around the room, ” recalled American nurse Josie brown.

So for a long time it was unknown what caused the Spanish flu and why, after flying around the entire planet, it suddenly disappeared. Only at the beginning of the two thousandth century, after extracting the lung tissue of some of the dead (whose bodies rested in the permafrost zone-Approx.), scientists found that the virus caused an uncontrolled immune system response when the body produces too many cytokines (protein molecules) to fight infection.

But epidemiologists are not in a hurry to please: the flu is constantly mutating, new strains will certainly appear and take human lives. According to who, each year a seasonal flu epidemic takes up to 650 thousand lives in the world. And the coronavirus is still far from such figures.

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