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Lessons from Historical Epidemics, Pandemics, and Their Social Repercussions: Exploring Potential Scenarios for COVID-19

Sara Akram, Yucheng Liang, Rao Nadeem Alam and Saad Shah


Published: 2023/09/01


The 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has resulted in much pain, loss of life, and social disruption. However, this is only the most recent epidemic. There have been several serious disease outbreaks and pandemics throughout history, including the Black Death, Spanish flu and SARS which brought devastating effects globally. This article places the COVID-19 pandemic into the wider context of previous pandemics. The study’s major objective is to compare the mortality rates, as well as the socioeconomic and demographic implications of the most recent pandemic, to prior pandemics. This provides the context that allows us to estimate future risks from pandemics. The research found that the mortality toll from the recent pandemic was not as high as it was during past pandemics such as the Black Death and the Spanish flu, not only because of the virus’ biology but also due to technological capabilities and efficacy of national health care systems, especially the timely provision of vaccines. Unlike some earlier pandemics that had vast impacts, COVID-19 was not an existential threat to human societies and human civilization. The conclusion is that while vigilance is required, future pandemics are unlikely to pose unmanageable threats as long as high standards of social order and medical knowledge and technology can be maintained. Keywords: History, Epidemics, Pandemics, Black Death, Covid-19

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