The history of viruses is interesting, as it is also the history of civilization, Just for you to have an idea, let’s take a look at smallpox. In the sixth century, smallpox was introduced into Japan because of increased trade. Then, in the seventh century, the Moors brought smallpox into northern Africa, Spain and Portugal. Later, in the eleventh century, the Crusades further spread smallpox in Europe. In the fifteenth century, when the Portuguese occupied western Africa, they introduced smallpox there.
In the sixteen century, European colonization and the African slave trade exported smallpox all over the world. Smallpox has probably killed more humans than any other virus and it killed about 300 million people in the 20th century alone. Smallpox was declared eradicated in 1979, but both Russia and the United States keep stocks of smallpox virus in their laboratories.
But the worst virus, the one we only know from movies and literature, was the Black Death, which spread and killed so many between 1346 – 1353. The Black Death probably began in Asia and it spread by way of fleas that lived and traveled on the rats that lived aboard merchant ships. It is estimated that the Black Death killed as many as 200 million people in Europe, Africa and Asia, which was a devastation of three continents, considering the world population of that time.
The 1918 Influenza Pandemic was another history-changing virus, and it infected about 27% of the world population at that time. It was known as the Spanish Flu and possibly killed as many as 100 million people. During WWI, it killed far more soldiers than death from war casualties.
In the late fifties, a new influenza A (H2N2) virus appeared in East Asia, triggering another pandemic. It was called the Asian Flu and it was first reported in Singapore in February 1957 and had reached the coastal cities in the United States by summer of that same year. The estimated number of deaths was 1.1 million worldwide and 116,000 in the United States alone.
Then the Hong Kong flu came along in 1968-69 and killed one million people in the first year alone. It began in Hong Kong and within 3 months it had spread pretty much all over. In total, it killed 15% of the population of Hong Kong and over a million people worldwide.
The Spanish Flu that was so active in WWI evolved into the 2009-2010 Swine Flu, aka Influenza A virus subtype H5N1 (A/H5N1). This virus resulted when a bird, swine and human viruses combined with a certain Eurasian pig flu virus. It is estimated that between 11-21% of the global population contracted this virus in those two years, and that it killed somewhere between 150,000 to 575,000, which is considered low.
Then, between 2002 and 2004, there was a worldwide coronavirus outbreak It was called SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). As far as we know, it came from bats and began in Southern China. SARS spread to 37 countries in less than a month because of air travel. It resulted in 800 deaths in 17 countries but about 8000 people contracted the virus, in 26 different countries.
The word cliffhanger comes from cliffs. Duh. Cliffs are vertical, or nearly vertical, rocks that have been formed by erosion and weathering. There are lots of famous cliffs, but the first ones that come to my mind are the White Cliffs of Dover, probably because there was a popular World War II song about them that was part of my childhood, and also because they are on the historical English coastline.
When one thinks of cliffhangers, England and its gothic novels always come to mind. Cliffhangers are the kind of story, book or movie that uses suspense either at the end of an episode or a scene. A good example was the way the final episode of Game of Thrones, season 5, was done. Jon Snow was dead. Or was he? Those of us who sweated it out until season 6 was aired were never really sure. The writers used old-fashioned melodrama, suspense and uncertainty, and the audience was left as if hanging from a cliff in a state of tension and apprehension. And that’s a true cliffhanger.
This part of the blog will not be able to offer any nail-biting cliffhangers, but it will have classes in series, and I hope they will be interesting enough that you will want to come back and read what happens next, even if you don’t lose sleep anticipating the next chapter. Enjoy.
In December 2019 Chinese authorities detected a new outbreak of coronavirus. This one ws officially named SARS-CoV-2, and it causes the disease COVID-19. The virus is spreading too quickly for me to write an accurate number of its victims, but you can Google today’s numbers. It was on December 31, 2019 when China alerted the [simple_tooltip content=’World Health Organization, specialized…
The history of viruses is interesting, as it is also the history of civilization, Just for you to have an idea, let’s take a look at smallpox. In the sixth century, smallpox was introduced into Japan because of increased trade. Then, in the seventh century, the Moors brought smallpox into…
King Henry VIII’s royal stool I love to learn new things about the English language and was very pleased to learn on a recent trip to London that the British royals used to call their toilet rooms “places of easement”. When I visited King Henry VIII’s palace I found out that he used to sit on top of a padded chair on what…
Summer is ending in Brazil, and for those who spent it on a Brazilian beach, we might need a post-summer diet. The best street food in Brazil is not found on the streets, but instead on the beaches. Brazilian beaches are a festival of delicious, fattening food, sold by friendly vendors who walk along the beach for uncountable kilometers each day. These vendors get a lot of exercise,…