Very few news outlets these days cover anything besides the COVID-19 pandemic. A quick perusal of social and mainstream media will reveal America’s newfound obsession. But why are we so single-mindedly focused on Coronavirus? Surely other things are happening in the world. When all is said and done, chalk it all up to an underlying fear of death. People fear pandemics and plagues because they fear death.
Ebola Pandemic Fear
In fact, in 2015, when Ebola raged in West Africa, reporters coined a term to describe the collective state of panic experienced by people the world over – “Fearbola.” Though the spread of Ebola may have come as a nasty shock to many at the time, psychologists weren’t surprised at the associated extent of people’s overriding fears.
People Fear Pandemics
In fact, the American Psychological Association (APA) explained the phenomenon like this: “What happened was quite consistent with what we know about risk perception. The minute healthcare workers communicated the Ebola pandemic threat, it hit all of the hot buttons: It can be fatal, it’s invisible and hard to protect against, exposure is involuntary and it’s not clear that the authorities are in control of the situation.”
Pandemic Panic Button
Research shows that different threats push different psychological buttons. Novel, exotic threats like Ebola or avian flu raise anxiety levels higher than more familiar threats do. But, across the board, although tend to people minimize familiar threats, they freak out whenever they encounter the unknown.
History of Plagues & Pandemics
Over the years, myriad plagues and pandemics have emerged to challenge our phobias. Here are just a few:
In December of 2019, a respiratory illness called COVID-19 was identified in a region of Wuhan, China. Within a few months, the virus had spread to virtually every corner of the globe. While the long-term effects have yet to be seen, as of this writing, most countries have effectively shut down amid the pandemic. To date, 2,554,982 cases of the virus have been recorded, and 177,419 people have died. The good news is that 690,039 have recovered. And the illness seems to pose the greatest threat to people who have other underlying health conditions.
With a death toll of 36 million, Human Immunodeficiency Virus Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome is a horrific, global pandemic that was formally identified in 1981. It profoundly affected the gay community as well as people who received blood transfusions. Although somewhere between 31 to 35 million people currently test positive for the virus, new treatments have changed the paradigm. Although there is still no known cure, testing positive for HIV no longer equates to a death sentence. But fears in the 1980s plagued millions of people around the world.
Hong Kong Flu
The H3N2 strains of the Influenza A virus caused the 1968 flu pandemic. From the first reported case in July of 1968 in Hong Kong, outbreaks of the virus were reported in Singapore and Vietnam within seven days. In only three months, the flu had spread to The Philippines, India, Australia, Europe, and the United States. Despite the comparatively low mortality rate (.5%) the flu still resulted in the deaths of more than a million people.
Originating in China in 1956, this flu lasted until 1958. During its virulent two-year spree, it traveled from the Chinese province of Guizhou to Singapore, Hong Kong, and the United States. Although estimates for the death toll vary depending on the source, the World Health Organization (WHO) places the tally at approximately 2 million deaths, 69,800 of those in the U.S. alone.
Spanish Flu (1918)
Exacting a death toll somewhere between 20 -50 million, this flu infected more than a third of the world’s population, claiming the lives of 20 – 50 million people. Of the 500 million people infected in the 1918 pandemic, the mortality rate was estimated at 10% to 20%. Twenty-five million people died in the first 25 weeks alone. Instead of sticking to the script, killing children, the elderly or infirm, this strain struck down healthy young adults.
The 6th Cholera Pandemic originated in India where it killed over 800,000. Then, it spread to the Middle East, North Africa, Eastern Europe and Russia. The Sixth Cholera Pandemic was also the source of the last American outbreak of Cholera (1910–1911). American health authorities, having learned from the past, quickly sought to isolate the infected. In the end, only 11 Americans died.
The Black Death AKA the Plague
From 1346 to 1353, an outbreak of the Plague ravaged Europe, Africa, and Asia, killing between 75 and 200 million people. Believed to have started in Asia, the Plague most likely jumped continents via fleas living on the rats which frequently lived aboard merchant ships. Since ports were major urban centers at the time, they became the perfect breeding ground for the rats and fleas.
About Foothill Funeral & Cremation Services in Glendora, California
When the time comes, if you so desire, we would value the opportunity to help you pre-plan for yourself or a family member or friend. Feel free to contact us now to pre-plan your own memorial or at your time of need (626) 335-0615. We would be happy to discuss your plans on the phone, via email or by text during the Coronavirus pandemic. Our relationship with United Methodist Church and Sacred Heart provide great places for mourners to host funerals and memorials. So, once the lockdown orders are reversed, you will love the grandiose yet intimate settings in both locations.