Mankind has feared the coming of the four horsemen of the apocalypse for millennia: war, famine, plague, and death. That disease is feared as much as the horrors of war is no coincidence. Infections can decimate just as many lives in a short space of time as armed conflict – and they can develop into global pandemics in the same way as an assassin’s bullet can start a war.
For instance, between 1347 and 1352, bubonic plague - the Black Death - accounted for the death of a third of the population of Europe and, only 100 years ago, between 1918 and 1920, over 50 million people around the globe succumbed to the Spanish Flu. From the war-torn trenches of Europe and Native American villages to the mega-cities of the USA and remote South Sea islands, countless victims died from this aggressive and highly infectious form of the influenza-A virus. It was not only weakened or older victims who were hit by Spanish Flu. On the contrary, this insidious infection, generally causing death by pneumonia, particularly affected young people between twenty and forty years of age.
In addition, recent years have also seen repeated outbreaks of infectious diseases that have spread like wildfire. Since the 1980s, for example, HIV has led to almost 40 million deaths from AIDS. The Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa in 2014/15 caused an epidemic that shook the world to its roots. In the case of Ebola, one to ten viruses were already enough to generate an infection and 50 to 90% of people infected died from hemorrhagic fever. By the time the epidemic had been contained, Ebola had already taken more than 11,000 lives. Ebola flared up again in August 2018, this time in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 2,500 people in the rebel-held region in the north of the country died from the virus and, in mid-July 2019, a first case was reported in Goma, a city of more than one million inhabitants.