An Epidemic: Top 10 Outbreaks In U.S. History

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(Photo Credit: Thinkstock)

(Photo Credit: Thinkstock)

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Throughout the years, epidemics and plagues have shaken up societies and cultures around the world.

The latest outbreak that Americans seem to be concerned about is the Ebola epidemic occurring in the African countries of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.  With experts and doctors saying that the outbreak has the potential to become a full-blown pandemic that will become increasingly more difficult to control, the general public is scared.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continuously keep an eye on public health and any immediate health dangers, the American public still worries about how much control we really have over such outbreaks.

Recently, two Americans were brought back to the U.S. to be treated at Emory Hospital in Atlanta after contracting the Ebola virus in Africa, while a man in New York City feared that he’d contracted the virus while in West Africa.

Add this to vials of smallpox recently found at the CDC and the increasing number of cases of measles in Ohio and it is obvious to see that the health scare is real.

Looking back in history, the number of outbreaks and epidemics that have taken their toll on this nation exceed a minuscule handful.

Below are the 10 epidemics whose threat of taking out our population (both real and imagined) rocked this country.

-  Yellow Fever (1668-1853) Major outbreaks of the disease were cited across the country from 1668 to 1853, during which nine percent of Philadelphia’s population was killed.

-  Cholera (1832-1851) Claiming the life of U.S. President James K. Polk, this disease has had outbreaks all over the world, officially becoming a pandemic multiple times through history.

Smallpox (1837) Smallpox is a serious, viral infectious disease that plagued the U.S. as early as 1617, but it was The Great Plains epidemic in 1837 that caused the first big scare in this country.

-  Typhus (1837-1837) A major killer during the Civil War, this disease had outbreaks crop up in New Hampshire, Tennessee, Philadelphia, Maryland, and Washington D.C.

-  Influenza (1918) Not just an epidemic but a pandemic, the 1918 outbreak killed healthy young adults as opposed to children and the elderly.

-  Measles (1989-1991) Responsible for killing 20 percent of Hawaii’s population in the 1850’s, Measles was and continues to be no laughing matter.  The scariest outbreak happened in 1989, prompting the Bush administration to take action, but that doesn’t change the fact that outbreaks continue to occur.

-  HIV/AIDS (1981-current) A major killer during the 1980’s and 1990’s, the viral infection has eased more in recent years while new medications and possible vaccinations provide hope for a cure.

-  Swine Flu (1998) A major outbreak that occurred in some pigs in the U.S., this illness fell more on the “imagined fear” side with more cases taking place overseas than in this country.

-  Avian (Bird) Flu (2005) Again, more of an imagined fear than real, this disease was never actually detected in U.S. poultry, birds, or humans.  However, the same can’t be said for Asia, Europe, and Africa.

-  Ebola (2014) The most current health scare, Ebola outbreaks have increasingly occurred in West Africa, infecting two Americans so far.

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