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The fourth cholera pandemic of the 19th century began in the Ganges Delta of the Bengal region and traveled with Muslim pilgrims to Mecca. In its first year, the epidemic claimed 30,000 of 90,000 pilgrims.
Cholera spread throughout the Middle East and was carried to Russia,
Europe, Africa and North America, in each case spreading via travelers
from port cities and along inland waterways.
The pandemic reached Northern Africa in 1865 and spread to sub-Saharan Africa, killing 70,000 in Zanzibar in 1869–70. Cholera claimed 90,000 lives in Russia in 1866. The epidemic of cholera that spread with the Austro-Prussian War (1866) is estimated to have taken 165,000 lives in the Austrian Empire, including 30,000 each in Hungary and Belgium, and 20,000 in the Netherlands.
In June 1866, a localized epidemic in the East End of London claimed 5,596 lives, just as the city was completing construction of its major sewage and water treatment systems; the East End section was not quite complete. It was also caused by the city's overcrowding in the East End, which helped the disease to spread more quickly in the area. Epidemiologist William Farr identified the East London Water Company as the source of the contamination. Farr made use of prior work by John Snow and others, pointing to contaminated drinking water as the likely cause of cholera in an 1854 outbreak. In the same year, the use of contaminated canal water in local water works caused a minor outbreak at Ystalyfera in South Wales. Workers associated with the company, and their families, were most affected, and 119 died.
The Spanish flu, also known as the 1918 flu pandemic, was an unusually deadly influenza pandemic.
Lasting from January 1918 to December 1920, it infected 500 million
people – about a quarter of the world's population at the time. The
death toll is estimated to have been anywhere from 17 million to
50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million, making it one of the deadliest pandemics in human history.
To maintain morale, World War I
censors minimized early reports of illness and mortality in Germany,
the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. Newspapers were free to report the epidemic's effects in neutral Spain, such as the grave illness of King Alfonso XIII,
and these stories created a false impression of Spain as especially
hard hit. This gave rise to the name Spanish flu. Historical and epidemiological data are inadequate to identify with certainty the pandemic's geographic origin, with varying views as to its location.
Most influenza outbreaks disproportionately kill the very young
and the very old, with a higher survival rate for those in between, but
the Spanish flu pandemic resulted in a higher than expected mortality
rate for young adults.
Scientists offer several possible explanations for the high mortality
rate of the 1918 influenza pandemic. Some analyses have shown the virus
to be particularly deadly because it triggers a cytokine storm, which ravages the stronger immune system of young adults. In contrast, a 2007 analysis of medical journals from the period of the pandemic found that the viral infection was no more aggressive than previous influenza strains. Instead, malnourishment, overcrowded medical camps and hospitals, and poor hygiene promoted bacterial superinfection. This superinfection killed most of the victims, typically after a somewhat prolonged death bed.
The 2009 swine flu pandemic was an influenza pandemic that lasted from January 2009 to August 2010, and the second of the two pandemics involving H1N1 influenza virus (the first being the 1918–1920 Spanish flu
pandemic), albeit a new strain. First described in April 2009, the
virus appeared to be a new strain of H1N1, which resulted from a
previous triple reassortment of bird, swine, and human flu viruses further combined with a Eurasian pig flu virus, leading to the term "swine flu".
Some studies estimated that 11 to 21 percent of the global population
at the time—or around 700 million to 1.4 billion people (of a total 6.8
billion)—contracted the illness. This was more than the number of people
infected by the Spanish flu pandemic, but only resulted in about 284,000 (range from 150,000 to 575,000) fatalities for the 2009 pandemic.
A follow-up study done in September 2010 showed that the risk of
serious illness resulting from the 2009 H1N1 flu was no higher than that
of the yearly seasonal flu. For comparison, the WHO estimates that 250,000 to 500,000 people die of seasonal flu annually.
The idea of human sacrifice has its roots in deep prehistory, in the evolution of human behaviour.
From its historical occurrences it seems mostly associated with
neolithic or nomadic cultures, on the emergent edge of civilization.
Human sacrifice has been practised on a number of different
occasions and in many different cultures. The various rationales behind
human sacrifice are the same that motivate religious sacrifice in
general. Human sacrifice is intended to bring good fortune and to pacify
the gods, for example in the context of the dedication of a completed
building like a temple or bridge.
In ancient Japan, legends talk about hitobashira ("human pillar"), in which maidens were buried alive at the base or near some constructions to protect the buildings against disasters or enemy attacks, and almost identical accounts appear in the Balkans (The Building of Skadar and Bridge of Arta).
For the re-consecration of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan in 1487, the Aztecs reported that they killed about 80,400 prisoners over the course of four days. According to Ross Hassig, author of Aztec Warfare, "between 10,000 and 80,400 persons" were sacrificed in the ceremony.
Human sacrifice can also have the intention of winning the gods' favour in warfare. In Homeric legend, Iphigeneia was to be sacrificed by her father Agamemnon to appease Artemis so she would allow the Greeks to wage the Trojan War.
In some notions of an afterlife, the deceased will benefit from victims killed at his funeral. Mongols, Scythians, early Egyptians and various Mesoamerican chiefs could take most of their household, including servants and concubines,
with them to the next world. This is sometimes called a "retainer
sacrifice", as the leader's retainers would be sacrificed along with
their master, so that they could continue to serve him in the afterlife.
Another purpose is divination from the body parts of the victim. According to Strabo, Celts stabbed a victim with a sword and divined the future from his death spasms.
is the practice of taking the head of a killed adversary, for
ceremonial or magical purposes, or for reasons of prestige. It was found
in many pre-modern tribal societies.
Human sacrifice may be a ritual practiced in a stable society, and may even be conducive to enhance societal bonds (see: Sociology of religion), both by creating a bond unifying the sacrificing community, and in combining human sacrifice and capital punishment,
by removing individuals that have a negative effect on societal
stability (criminals, religious heretics, foreign slaves or prisoners of
war). However, outside of civil religion, human sacrifice may also result in outbursts of blood frenzy and mass killings that destabilize society. The bursts of human sacrifice during European witch-hunts, or during the French Revolutionary Reign of Terror, show similar sociological patterns (see also Moral panic).
ATHENS, Nov. 3 — Excavations on the
southern Mediterranean island of Crete have revealed, along with rare
artifacts, a religious drama played out in a Minoan temple 3,500 years
ago in an advanced culture's last hour.
dig at the village of Arhanes unearthed both evidence of the Minoans’
new capital and the first proof of a human sacrifice there, clearly
designed as a desperate attempt to appease the gods shortly before the
city was ruined by an earthquake about 1650 B.C.