Covid-19: Learn about pandemics which have killed millions around the world

As people around the country panic about the imminent lockdown due to the coronavirus, we take a look at some other pandemics which killed millions of people and led to essential discoveries such as the importance of quarantine.

The Black Death

The Black Death claimed an estimated 200 million lives from 1347 to 1351. According to, it is believed that during this time, people still had no scientific understanding of contagion but began to understand that it had something to do with proximity. Forward-thinking officials in the Venetian-controlled port city of Ragusa decided to keep newly arrived sailors in isolation until they could prove they weren’t sick.

At first, sailors were held on their ships for 30 days, which became known in Venetian law as a trentino. As time went on, the Venetians increased the forced isolation to 40 days or a quarantino. This is the origin of the word quarantine and the start of its practice in the Western world.

The Spanish Flu

The Spanish Flu is one of the worst recorded pandemics in recent history. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, it was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian (bird) origin. There is no universal consensus about where the virus originated, however, it spread worldwide during 1918–1919. It is estimated that about 500 million people, or one-third of the world’s population, became infected. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide.

Swine Flu

In 2009, a new H1N1 influenza virus (known as swine flu) emerged, causing the first global flu pandemic in 40 years. The H1N1 swine influenza is a common infection in pigs worldwide, which is why it is also known as swine flu. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that between 150 000 and 570 000 people died worldwide.


The first cases of people with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (Aids) were reported in 1981. According to the World Health Organisation, 75 million people have been infected with the HIV virus and about 32 million people have died of HIV (as of 2018). Sub-Saharan Africa is the region most affected. In 2018, an estimated 61 per cent of new HIV infections occurred in this region.

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Coronavirus reporting at Caxton Local Media aims to combat fake news
Dear reader,
As your local news provider, we have the duty of keeping you factually informed on Covid-19 developments. As you may have noticed, mis- and disinformation (also known as “fake news”) is circulating online. Caxton Local Media is determined to filter through the masses of information doing the rounds and to separate truth from untruth in order to keep you adequately informed. Local newsrooms follow a strict pre-publication fact-checking protocol. A national task team has been established to assist in bringing you credible news reports on Covid-19.
Readers with any comments or queries may contact National Group Editor Irma Green ([email protected]) or Legal Adviser Helene Eloff ([email protected]).


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