A History of the Coronavirus

from Issue C


The coronavirus is an emerging disease that was announced a pandemic in late January. Pandemics do not happen very often, seemingly occurring every one-hundred years. The Spanish flu occurred around 1920, and the cholera pandemic occurred around 1820. Each pandemic had huge death tolls and spread rapidly across the world.

The cholera pandemic lead to an incomplete understanding of how cholera outbreaks happen in some places and not others. The lack of treatment for human feces and lack of availability for fresh water contributed to the spread. The first cholera pandemic occurred in the Bengal region of India, starting in 1817-1824. Hundreds and thousands of Indians and a couple thousand British troops died during this pandemic. The outbreak went as far as China, Indonesia, and the Caspian Sea before receding. This was only the first pandemic. There were about seven related pandemics that followed, and they all occurred within a century.

The Spanish Flu, also known as the influenza pandemic, took place from 1918-1919. The virus infected around 500 million people and killed an estimated 20-50 million people. More people have died of influenza in one year than the four year period of the Black Death Bubonic Plague, that occurred from 1347-1351. The effect of the influenza epidemic was so bad that the average life span of the US decreased by 10 years. The outbreak swept through North America, Asia, Africa, Brazil, Asia, and the South Pacific. World War I contributed to the spread of the pandemic with the men aboard ships going around the world.

The coronavirus is a new disease that emerged in China in December of 2019. Within a couple of months, it has spread to every populated continent in the world. The virus can be spread through droplets released into the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs. The Coronavirus may have been linked to a seafood market in Wuhan, China. People who visited the marketplace developed pneumonia. From there it spread from person to person. The symptoms range from cough, fever, shortness of breath, muscle aches, sore throat, to loss of taste and smell. What makes the Coronavirus so deadly and infectious that that there is no vaccine yet.

Symptoms also can take 3-14 days to appear in a person, so an infected person can unknowingly spread the disease rapidly. There are currently 1.23 million confirmed cases of Coronavirus in the U.S. 163,000 people have recovered, with an unfortunate amount of around 71,532 deaths. Worldwide, there are 3.62 million confirmed cases, with 1.18 million people recovered. The death toll is currently at 253,000, which is expected to increase as the weeks go by. There is also currently no treatment for the Coronavirus, so the only things that can be done is washing your hands and practicing social distancing. No one knows when this will all end, but it seems as if we have almost reached a peak, and we should steadily see the amount of cases slow down and flatten soon. The best thing we can have is hope and see the positive through all of this.