The reason movies like Contagion get made again and again is because the scenarios are more than believable — they are terribly likely.Hollywood’s most recent effort has been applauded by scientists who praise the science behind the filming as dead-on.
The R-naught factor in the movie, which refers to the number of people who become sick after being infected, is a key real-life factor. So keep an eye on that tidbit the next time we have a flu scare.
And don’t worry. We will.
One element of the movie scientists deride as being unrealistic: The U.S. does not have the facilities to make vaccines that fast.
There is some dispute over whether this was a plague at all or an epidemic of viral hemorrhagic fever, regardless there is little argument that 100,000 Londoners died.
Imported on ships from Amsterdam, infections began on the docks in 1665. Stevedores, crowded in squalor, died first before spreading disease to the rest of the city.
By July King Charles had fled and ill-advised instructions to eradicate all the cats and dogs in the city sent the rat population skyrocketing -- rats carried the fleas that carried the disease.
Deaths raged at 7,000 people at week up until September 2, 1666 when the Great Fire of London drew the epidemic to a close.
The merchant ship Grand-Saint-Antoine was known to have stopped at plague-ridden Cyprus before allowed to dock at Marseilles, but immediately put under quarantine.
Despite numerous ship passengers perishing from the plague, including the ships surgeon, powerful city merchants had the ships quarantine lifted to receive the goods they had on board.
Within days the epidemic was firmly underway and piles of corpses lay about the city -- when it was over up to 50 per cent of residents in the area were dead.
The bubonic plague struck Moscow in late 1770 and by spring of the following year had become a full blown epidemic.
The quarantine measures imposed by officials infuriated and terrified the public in equal measure, causing widespread riots and the destruction of quarantine zones.
The economy at a standstill, and running out of food, soldiers were finally brought in with provisions to restore order -- in the end 300 people were arrested and up to 200,000 perished.
The Russian flu pandemic of 1889-1890 is the earliest for which detailed records are available.
Despite documentation, scientists have yet to agree on the virus type of the flu and as recently as 2000 exhumed bodies for conclusive answers.
The flu began in Russia, but spread rapidly through Europe, reaching North America and Asia before tapering off.
The Hong Kong flu epidemic shows how a modern crisis might hit the world.
The first outbreak that summer in '68 was reported in Hong Kong. By September, the flu reached India, Philippines, Australia, and Europe. By fall it was brought into California by returning troops from Vietnam, becoming widespread in the U.S. by Christmas of that year. By January it was in South America, Japan, and Africa.
1,000,000 people died, though the virus had a case-fatality ratio of only .5%
A disease of the large intestine and transmitted through contaminated water, cholera has haunted humanity for centuries.
The Third Cholera Pandemic from 1852 to 1859 swept through Asia, North America, and Africa hitting Russia particularly hard.
This cholera pandemic is considered the most deadly cholera pandemic in history, though the seventh is still going on.
Roman soldiers unknowingly started the Antonine Plague in AD 165 when they returned from the Near East carrying either smallpox or measles.
Over 15-years, outbreaks killed as many as 2,000 people a day and decimated a full one-third of the Roman army.
As a result Rome's army was unable to hold back tribes in the north and by some accounts never fully recovered from the blow dealt by the plague.
6.5 million people died.
The bubonic plague slipped into Constantinople from China in 541 AD killing up to 10,000 people a day at its peak.
The plague decimated the Emperor Justinian's tax-base, undermining his ability to battle the Vandals and the Goths and effectively ended the chance of uniting the Western and Eastern Roman Empires.
Justinian himself was one of the few infected by the plague who, in the end, survived.
Unlike most outbreaks the majority of victims from the 1918 pandemic were young and healthy.
Estimates put the possible number of dead at up to 100,000,000 -- 6% of the global population. Cases were reported from the Pacific Islands to the Arctic.
The disease did not originate in Spain, but the European nations had the most accurate and uncensored reporting of the outbreak resulting in the belief that it started there.
10 to 20% of those infected died from the H1N1 flu virus, that returned again in 2009.
One of the most devastating pandemics in the history of the world, the bacterium Yersinia pestis killed up to 60% of Europe's population between 1348 and 1350, reducing the global number of people to 350 million.
The monumental death toll shaped contemporary morality and a 'live for the moment' approach to life infused Europe during the slaughter, and after the deaths tapered off.
The disease was called 'black' not for its tendency to cause gangrene before death, but because of the black mood it inspired. It took 150 years for the population to recover.
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