The History of Pandemics
Pan·dem·ic /panˈdemik/ (of a disease) prevalent over a whole country or the world.
As humans have spread across the world, so have infectious diseases. Even in this modern era, outbreaks are nearly constant, though not every outbreak reaches pandemic level as COVID-19 has.
Today’s visualization outlines some of history’s most deadly pandemics, from the Antonine Plague to the current COVID-19 event.
A Timeline of Historical Pandemics
Disease and illnesses have plagued humanity since the earliest days, our mortal flaw. However, it was not until the marked shift to agrarian communities that the scale and spread of these diseases increased dramatically.
Widespread trade created new opportunities for human and animal interactions that sped up such epidemics. Malaria, tuberculosis, leprosy, influenza, smallpox, and others first appeared during these early years.
The more civilized humans became – with larger cities, more exotic trade routes, and increased contact with different populations of people, animals, and ecosystems – the more likely pandemics would occur.
Here are some of the major pandemics that have occurred over time:
|Name||Time period||Type / Pre-human host||Death toll|
|Antonine Plague||165-180||Believed to be either smallpox or measles||5M|
|Japanese smallpox epidemic||735-737||Variola major virus||1M|
|Plague of Justinian||541-542||Yersinia pestis bacteria / Rats, fleas||30-50M|
|Black Death||1347-1351||Yersinia pestis bacteria / Rats, fleas||200M|
|New World Smallpox Outbreak||1520 – onwards||Variola major virus||56M|
|Great Plague of London||1665||Yersinia pestis bacteria / Rats, fleas||100,000|
|Italian plague||1629-1631||Yersinia pestis bacteria / Rats, fleas||1M|
|Cholera Pandemics 1-6||1817-1923||V. cholerae bacteria||1M+|
|Third Plague||1885||Yersinia pestis bacteria / Rats, fleas||12M (China and India)|
|Yellow Fever||Late 1800s||Virus / Mosquitoes||100,000-150,000 (U.S.)|
|Russian Flu||1889-1890||Believed to be H2N2 (avian origin)||1M|
|Spanish Flu||1918-1919||H1N1 virus / Pigs||40-50M|
|Asian Flu||1957-1958||H2N2 virus||1.1M|
|Hong Kong Flu||1968-1970||H3N2 virus||1M|
|HIV/AIDS||1981-present||Virus / Chimpanzees||25-35M|
|Swine Flu||2009-2010||H1N1 virus / Pigs||200,000|
|SARS||2002-2003||Coronavirus / Bats, Civets||770|
|Ebola||2014-2016||Ebolavirus / Wild animals||11,000|
|MERS||2015-Present||Coronavirus / Bats, camels||850|
|COVID-19||2019-Present||Coronavirus – Unknown (possibly pangolins)||848K (Johns Hopkins University estimate as of 10:28am PT, Aug 31, 2020)|
Despite the persistence of disease and pandemics throughout history, there’s one consistent trend over time – a gradual reduction in the death rate. Healthcare improvements and understanding the factors that incubate pandemics have been powerful tools in mitigating their impact.
Wrath of the Gods
In many ancient societies, people believed that spirits and gods inflicted disease and destruction upon those that deserved their wrath. This unscientific perception often led to disastrous responses that resulted in the deaths of thousands, if not millions.
In the case of Justinian’s plague, the Byzantine historian Procopius of Caesarea traced the origins of the plague (the Yersinia pestis bacteria) to China and northeast India, via land and sea trade routes to Egypt where it entered the Byzantine Empire through Mediterranean ports.
Despite his apparent knowledge of the role geography and trade played in this spread, Procopius laid blame for the outbreak on the Emperor Justinian, declaring him to be either a devil, or invoking God’s punishment for his evil ways. Some historians found that this event could have dashed Emperor Justinian’s efforts to reunite the Western and Eastern remnants of the Roman Empire, and marked the beginning of the Dark Ages.
Luckily, humanity’s understanding of the causes of disease has improved, and this is resulting in a drastic improvement in the response to modern pandemics, albeit slow and incomplete.
The practice of quarantine began during the 14th century, in an effort to protect coastal cities from plague epidemics. Cautious port authorities required ships arriving in Venice from infected ports to sit at anchor for 40 days before landing — the origin of the word quarantine from the Italian “quaranta giorni”, or 40 days.
One of the first instances of relying on geography and statistical analysis was in mid-19th century London, during a cholera outbreak. In 1854, Dr. John Snow came to the conclusion that cholera was spreading via tainted water and decided to display neighborhood mortality data directly on a map. This method revealed a cluster of cases around a specific pump from which people were drawing their water from.
While the interactions created through trade and urban life play a pivotal role, it is also the virulent nature of particular diseases that indicate the trajectory of a pandemic.
Scientists use a basic measure to track the infectiousness of a disease called the reproduction number — also known as R0 or “R naught.” This number tells us how many susceptible people, on average, each sick person will in turn infect.
Measles tops the list, being the most contagious with a R0 range of 12-18. This means a single person can infect, on average, 12 to 18 people in an unvaccinated population.
While measles may be the most virulent, vaccination efforts and herd immunity can curb its spread. The more people are immune to a disease, the less likely it is to proliferate, making vaccinations critical to prevent the resurgence of known and treatable diseases.
It’s hard to calculate and forecast the true impact of COVID-19, as the outbreak is still ongoing and researchers are still learning about this new form of coronavirus.
Urbanization and the Spread of Disease
We arrive at where we began, with rising global connections and interactions as a driving force behind pandemics. From small hunting and gathering tribes to the metropolis, humanity’s reliance on one another has also sparked opportunities for disease to spread.
Urbanization in the developing world is bringing more and more rural residents into denser neighborhoods, while population increases are putting greater pressure on the environment. At the same time, passenger air traffic nearly doubled in the past decade. These macro trends are having a profound impact on the spread of infectious disease.
As organizations and governments around the world ask for citizens to practice social distancing to help reduce the rate of infection, the digital world is allowing people to maintain connections and commerce like never before.
Editor’s Note: The COVID-19 pandemic is in its early stages and it is obviously impossible to predict its future impact. This post and infographic are meant to provide historical context, and we will continue to update it as time goes on to maintain its accuracy.
Update (March 15, 2020): We’ve adjusted the death toll for COVID-19, and will continue to update on a regular basis.
Mainstream EV Adoption: 5 Speedbumps to Overcome
The pace of mainstream EV adoption has been slow, but is expected to accelerate as automakers overcome these five critical challenges.
Mainstream EV Adoption: 5 Speedbumps to Overcome
Many would agree that a global shift to electric vehicles (EV) is an important step in achieving a carbon-free future. However, for various reasons, EVs have so far struggled to break into the mainstream, accounting for just 2.5% of global auto sales in 2019.
To understand why, this infographic from Castrol identifies the five critical challenges that EVs will need to overcome. All findings are based on a 2020 survey of 10,000 consumers, fleet managers, and industry specialists across eight significant EV markets.
The Five Challenges to EV Adoption
Cars have relied on the internal combustion engine (ICE) since the early 1900s, and as a result, the ownership experience of an EV can be much more nuanced. This results in the five critical challenges we examine below.
Challenge #1: Price
The top challenge is price, with 63% of consumers believing that EVs are beyond their current budget. Though many cheaper EV models are being introduced, ICE vehicles still have the upper hand in terms of initial affordability. Note the emphasis on “initial”, because over the long term, EVs may actually be cheaper to maintain.
Taking into account all of the running and maintenance costs of [an EV], we have already reached relative cost parity in terms of ownership.
—President, EV consultancy, U.S.
For starters, an EV drivetrain has significantly fewer moving parts than an ICE equivalent, which could result in lower repair costs. Government subsidies and the cost of electricity are other aspects to consider.
So what is the tipping price that would convince most consumers to buy an EV? According to Castrol, it differs around the world.
|Country||EV Adoption Tipping Price ($)|
Many budget-conscious buyers also rely on the used market, in which EVs have little presence. The rapid speed of innovation is another concern, with 57% of survey respondents citing possible depreciation as a factor that prevented them from buying an EV.
Challenge #2: Charge Time
Most ICE vehicles can be refueled in a matter of minutes, but there is much more uncertainty when it comes to charging an EV.
Using a standard home charger, it takes 10-20 hours to charge a typical EV to 80%. Even with an upgraded fast charger (3-22kW power), this could still take up to 4 hours. The good news? Next-gen charging systems capable of fully charging an EV in 20 minutes are slowly becoming available around the world.
Similar to the EV adoption tipping price, Castrol has also identified a charge time tipping point—the charge time required for mainstream EV adoption.
|Country||Charge Time Tipping Point (minutes)|
If the industry can achieve an average 31 minute charge time, EVs could reach $224 billion in annual revenues across these eight markets alone.
Challenge #3: Range
Over 70% of consumers rank the total range of an EV as being important to them. However, today’s affordable EV models (below the average tipping price of $35,947) all have ranges that fall under 200 miles.
Traditional gas-powered vehicles, on the other hand, typically have a range between 310-620 miles. While Tesla offers several models boasting a 300+ mile range, their purchase prices are well above the average tipping price.
For the majority of consumers to consider an EV, the following range requirements will need to be met by vehicle manufacturers.
|Country||Range Tipping Point (miles)|
Fleet managers, those who oversee vehicles for services such as deliveries, reported a higher average EV tipping range of 341 miles.
Challenge #4: Charging Infrastructure
Charging infrastructure is the fourth most critical challenge, with 64% of consumers saying they would consider an EV if charging was convenient.
Similar to charge times, there is much uncertainty surrounding infrastructure. For example, 65% of consumers living in urban areas have a charging point within 5 miles of their home, compared to just 26% for those in rural areas.
Significant investment in public charging infrastructure will be necessary to avoid bottlenecks as more people adopt EVs. China is a leader in this regard, with billions spent on EV infrastructure projects. The result is a network of over one million charging stations, providing 82% of Chinese consumers with convenient access.
Challenge #5: Vehicle Choice
The least important challenge is increasing the variety of EV models available. This issue is unlikely to persist for long, as industry experts believe 488 unique models will exist by 2025.
Despite variety being less influential than charge times or range, designing models that appeal to various consumer niches will likely help to accelerate EV adoption. Market research will be required, however, because attitudes towards EVs vary by country.
|Country||Consumers Who Believe EVs Are More Fashionable Than ICE Vehicles (%)|
A majority of Chinese and Indian consumers view EVs more favorably than traditional ICE vehicles. This could be the result of a lower familiarity with cars in general—in 2000, for example, China had just four million cars spread across its population of over one billion.
EVs are the least alluring in the U.S. and Norway, which coincidentally have the highest GDP per capita among the eight countries surveyed. These consumers may be accustomed to a higher standard of quality as a result of their greater relative wealth.
So When Do EVs Become Mainstream?
As prices fall and capabilities improve, Castrol predicts a majority of consumers will consider buying an EV by 2024. Global mainstream adoption could take slightly longer, arriving in 2030.
Caution should be exhibited, as these estimates rely on the five critical challenges being solved in the short-term future. This hinges on a number of factors, including technological change, infrastructure investment, and a shift in consumer attitudes.
New challenges could also arise further down the road. EVs require a significant amount of minerals such as copper and lithium, and a global increase in production could put strain on the planet’s limited supply.
Ranked: The 50 Most Popular Fast Food Chains in America
What’s America been craving? Here’s a look at the top 50 most popular fast food chains, ranked by U.S. sales in 2019.
The 50 Most Popular Fast Food Chains in America
Millions of Americans eat at fast food restaurants every day—and they now have more options at their disposal than ever before.
From burgers to pad thai, there’s a quick service restaurant that’ll satisfy almost any appetite. With all this choice, which fast food chains are the most popular among consumers?
Using data from QSR Magazine, today’s infographic ranks the top 50 largest fast food chains in the U.S. by sales in 2019, providing insight into the types of foods Americans have been craving.
Fast Food Chains Ranked, by Revenue
In 2019, the 50 largest fast food chains in the U.S. generated over $200 billion in revenue. How do these quick service giants stack up against each other?
|Rank||Company||Category||U.S. Sales, Billions (2019)|
|19||Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen||Chicken||$3.75|
|20||Jack in the Box||Burger||$3.51|
|34||Steak 'n Shake||Burger||$0.93|
|35||El Pollo Loco||Chicken||$0.89|
|49||Tropical Smoothie Café||Snack||$0.58|
Unsurprisingly, McDonald’s comes in at number one with over $40 billion in sales. Despite a scandal involving its former CEO, McDonald’s still managed to significantly outsell its peers—the company made almost double that of the second-largest fast food chain, Starbucks.
But don’t worry, Starbucks did just fine for itself. With $21 billion in sales, the Seattle-based coffee chain saw a 5% increase compared to its numbers in 2018.
Top Selling Fast Food Categories
Based on the ranking, it’s clear that Americans still love their McDonald’s. But are burgers, in general, the most popular fast food item?
In short—yes. Burgers are king. Here’s a look at how burgers, pizza, chicken, and other food categories measure up:
Burger joints remain the most popular fast food option among consumers—14 of the 50 chains on the list are classified as burger restaurants, with $80 billion in collective sales.
Snacks come in at second place, with a total of $36 billion in revenue. Boasting a broad variety of foods from iced coffee to donuts and ice cream, six of the restaurants on the list are included in this category. Starbucks is the most popular, followed by Dunkin’ and Dairy Queen respectively.
While the chicken and sandwich categories both have nine restaurants included in the ranking, chicken restaurants outsold sandwiches by almost $1 billion. This is largely due to Chick-fil-A, which makes up more than a third of all chicken restaurant sales included in the ranking.
It’s important to note that these numbers reflect the fast food industry before the devastating impacts of COVID-19. The global pandemic has forced many fast food restaurants to adapt, and it’s also triggered a number of restaurant shutdowns.
For instance, McDonald’s is set to permanently close 200 of its 14,000 U.S. locations, and Dunkin’ will be closing 450 restaurants by the end of 2020. Starbucks has also announced it’s planning to permanently shut down up to 400 locations by mid-2021.
With online sales more important than ever, the chains with a strong digital presence may be in a better position to weather the storm. Chains with physical distancing options, such as drive-throughs, could also recover quicker.
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