The Deadliest Years in History

Have you ever wondered when the deadliest years in history occurred? Why were they so deadly?

Those of us in the funeral industry pick up some interesting trivia about death and dying. Though death is a subject often avoided in polite conversation, it is a fascinating influence in our history. This post logs some of the deadliest years in history to appease your gruesome curiosity.

#4 2005 and the AIDS epidemic

In this one year alone, 2.22 million people died of the AIDS epidemic across the world. This deadly virus is spread by contact with bodily fluids such as blood or sperm, and it works quickly to shut down the body’s immune system completely. When this happens, infections and cancers are more easily contracted and much more lethal. Though it may seem surprising that such a plague exists in modern day, AIDS is still a raging force in some areas of the world even now.

#3 1959 and China’s Great Famine

Just 10 years after the Communist party took over the ruling power in China, 45 million people died of starvation and exposure. This taboo topic is rarely talked about in China, but its effects are still influencing policy and culture in the country today. The horror stories of this time period are haunting—stories of cannibalism, stories of beatings and abandonment, stories of desperation and want. Some families refused to bury their dead because if the death was declared, they would be unable to collect that person’s food rations. Corpses were laid in bed and tucked in as if they were sleeping so the family could have a few more ounces of food.

#2 1918 and the Spanish Flu

While soldiers fought bravely to end the first world war, people around the world were perishing from an uncontrollable plague. This international pandemic affected people of all ages, not just the old or the young. When you contract the Spanish flu, your face turns a dark shade of purple and your feet slowly become black. You cough up blood, saliva, and mucus until you cannot cough it up anymore. You die by drowning because your lungs fill up with fluid that you’re too exhausted to expel. The casualties of this pandemic are estimated to be up to 100 million—more deaths than the results of the Great War.

#1 1346 and The Black Death

Some estimates of the death toll of the Black Plague reach up to 200 million souls. This infamous outbreak was spread by fleas who had contracted the disease from rats and then came in contact with humans. Also known as the Bubonic Plague and the Black Plague, it decimated 60% of Europe in the 14th century and is still known as the most deadly disease in history. Its distinctive symptoms include buboes, or black, hard lumps that manifest in the groin, armpits and neck where your lymph nodes are located. So many people died of this disease that records from this time recall the mass graves dug daily by those who avoided the sickness went all the way to the water table.

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