The Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020 in Historical Perspective

Women wearing masks hold stretchers near ambulances during the Spanish Flu pandemic in St. Louis, Mo., October 1918. (Library of Congress/Handout via Reuters)
Plagues could be even more lethal before modern medicine and epidemiology.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE S ince at least the time of ancient Greece and Rome, massive outbreaks of disease have repeatedly ravaged the human race. Until quite recently, epidemics of cholera, smallpox, typhus, yellow fever, and influenza were commonplace, collectively taking, over the centuries, hundreds of millions of human lives. Occasionally these plagues have become disasters known as pandemics, spreading far from their points of origin to batter much of the world.

Perhaps the most infamous and fearsome of these afflictions was the bubonic plague, or Black Death, of the late Middle Ages. Originating in Asia, where it apparently killed many millions, it arrived in Europe


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