Current Pandemics

Throughout history, pandemics have posed some of the greatest threats to mankind, claiming more lives than all wars and accidents put together. One well known pandemic is cholera, which was widespread in the 19th century and killed tens of millions of people. Another example is tuberculosis, which killed around one quarter of the European population, also in the 19th century.

pandemicImage Credit: ImageFlow/

A recent pandemic was the influenza A H1N1 pandemic of 2009, and two current pandemics are the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreaks.

The 2009 influenza A pandemic

Influenza A H1N1 was a new strain of the influenza A virus that was responsible for most cases of human flu in 2009.

In the latter half of April that year, the World Health Organization upped its pandemic alert from a level three to a level five. On 11th June, the alert level was further raised, to level six, which is the highest level for a pandemic. The virus spread globally and caused around 17,000 deaths by the beginning of 2010.

The pandemic was declared to be over in August 2010, as announced by the World Health Organization (WHO) who said that flu activity had returned to the usual seasonal patterns.

HIV and AIDS epidemic/pandemic

HIV is considered by some to be a pandemic, although the WHO class it as a ‘global epidemic’. HIV infection first began in Africa and then spread to Haiti. From there, it spread to the United States between and then into other nations around the world in the 1980s. HIV is now controllable outside of Africa, but it is currently an epidemic/pandemic in Africa.

Public education campaigns about sexual health and infection prevention have helped to reduce infection rates in some African countries. WHO figures state that in 2019 around 38,000,000 people were living with HIV and 690,000 died from related causes.

It is estimated by UNAIDS that since the beginning of the HIV epidemic, 32.7 million people have died from AIDS-related causes.

The COVID-19 pandemic

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by the zoonotic coronavirus severe acute respiratory coronavirus syndrome 2 (SARS-CoV-2), is a respiratory disease first identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019. It quickly spread around the world, being declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the WHO at the end of January 2020 and a pandemic on 11 March 2020. The virus reached every continent and has reached more than 200 countries.

As of 7 May 2021, the pandemic is ongoing, with global cases officially having reached over 155,000,000 and deaths being more than 3,247,000, although these statistics are widely recognized to be underreported. Vaccines have been in roll-out in an attempt to achieve herd immunity and end the pandemic since the end of 2020, and many vaccines and treatments are still in development.

Varied symptoms, asymptomatic transmission, and airborne transmission caused the virus to spread very quickly. Social distancing, face masks, and enforced lockdowns and quarantines were introduced to different extents across the world.

The pandemic has caused severe economic and social disruption across the world.


Further Reading

Last Updated: May 7, 2021

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


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