Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Historical Pandemics by Vickie McDonough

All of us probably know what a pandemic is by now, but just in case you don’t, it’s a disease epidemic that spreads across multiple continents or worldwide. COVID-19 may be new to us, but it certainly is not the only pandemic the world has faced.

The first known pandemic happened in Athens from 430 to 426 BC. A typhoid fever broke out during the Peloponnesian War and killed a quarter of the Athenian troops. It also killed one-fourth of the general population over four years. The cause of the disease was unknown for centuries, but in January 2006, researchers from the University of Athens analyzed teeth recovered from a mass grave beneath the city. They confirmed the presence of bacteria that was responsible for the typhoid.

The Black Death, which occurred from 1331 to 1353, was responsible for the deaths of 75 million people worldwide. It started in Asia, reaching the Mediterranean and western Europe in 1348. It killed between 20 – 30 million Europeans—one-third of the population—in six years. It was the first of a cycle of European epidemics that continued until the 18th century. There were more than 100 plagues in Europe during this time. The disease recurred in England every two–five years from 1361 – 1480. England’s population had been reduced by half by the year 1370. The Great Plague of London (1665-66) killed 100,000 people, 20% of London’s population.

In 1855, another plague pandemic started in China and spread to India, where 10 million people died. It was during this pandemic that the United States saw its first outbreak – the San Francisco plague of 1900-1904.

During the 1800s, there were 7 cholera pandemics worldwide. The first started in India, and eventually spread to China. It hit especially hard in Russia, with over a million deaths during 1846-1860. In 1866, a cholera outbreak in North America killed some 50,000 Americans. An estimated two to six Americans died per day during the outbreak.

The Spanish flu began in 1918 and lasted until 1920, infecting 500 million people around the world. Even remote places like the Arctic and Pacific Islands were affected. 50-100 million people died. Most flu outbreaks attack the elderly and very young, but the Spanish flu attacked young adults. The Spanish flu killed more people during World War 1 in just 25 weeks than AIDS did in its first 25 years. It is believed that the soldiers were more susceptible than normal people because of stress, malnourishment, and chemical attacks. 

Why am I sharing this discouraging information? It’s to show you that the world has faced many outbreaks like we are facing today, and it survived. What I reported on is by far not all of the pandemics our world has faced. I didn’t even touch on smallpox, yellow fever, scarlet fever, or diphtheria epidemics. It makes you sit back and wonder how any of our ancestors survived. But they did! The truth is that we’re stronger than we think. People are survivors. Yes, we need to take COVID-19 seriously, but let's also look at history. The Coronavirus pales in comparison to previous pandemics. So hang in there, hunker down, and be wise.

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A prodigal’s hope for a happy homecoming is derailed

Clay left home after his brother’s death—a death for which he was responsible. After years away he’s finally returning, hoping for reconciliation with his father. But when the stagecoach he’s riding in wrecks and he is injured, he finds himself in a fight for survival.

Jolie is fleeing a nightmare situation. She desperately hopes becoming a mail-order bride doesn’t land her in a worse place. When the stage crashes and she spends the night alone with a wounded man, she wonders if her intended will still want her. If he doesn’t, what will she do? She has no money and nowhere to go.

Vickie McDonough is the best-selling author of 50 books and novellas. Vickie grew up wanting to marry a rancher, but instead, she married a computer geek who is scared of horses. She now lives out her dreams penning romance stories about ranchers, cowboys, lawmen, and others living in the Old West. Vickie’s books have won numerous awards including the Booksellers Best and the Inspirational Readers’ Choice awards. When she’s not writing, Vickie enjoys reading, doing stained-glass projects, gardening, watching movies, and traveling. To learn more about Vickie’s books or to sign up for her newsletter, visit her website: www.vickiemcdonough.com


  1. Thanks for the perspective. I think we feel that we are impervious to these things because of all of our science and knowledge. If nothing else, perhaps we are somewhat humbled to experience something like this.

  2. We're certainly experiencing history in the making. Thanks for the rundown, Vickie!

  3. It's pretty hard to believe how much this virus has sidelined most of the world. No one would have dreamed this could happen when we all celebrated the new year--except maybe a fiction writer. :)