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Visualizing the History of Pandemics

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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:

NameTime periodType / Pre-human hostDeath toll
Antonine Plague165-180Believed to be either smallpox or measles5M
Japanese smallpox epidemic735-737Variola major virus1M
Plague of Justinian541-542Yersinia pestis bacteria / Rats, fleas30-50M
Black Death1347-1351Yersinia pestis bacteria / Rats, fleas200M
New World Smallpox Outbreak1520 – onwardsVariola major virus56M
Great Plague of London1665Yersinia pestis bacteria / Rats, fleas100,000
Italian plague1629-1631Yersinia pestis bacteria / Rats, fleas1M
Cholera Pandemics 1-61817-1923V. cholerae bacteria1M+
Third Plague1885Yersinia pestis bacteria / Rats, fleas12M (China and India)
Yellow FeverLate 1800sVirus / Mosquitoes100,000-150,000 (U.S.)
Russian Flu1889-1890Believed to be H2N2 (avian origin)1M
Spanish Flu1918-1919H1N1 virus / Pigs40-50M
Asian Flu1957-1958H2N2 virus1.1M
Hong Kong Flu1968-1970H3N2 virus1M
HIV/AIDS1981-presentVirus / Chimpanzees25-35M
Swine Flu2009-2010H1N1 virus / Pigs200,000
SARS2002-2003Coronavirus / Bats, Civets770
Ebola2014-2016Ebolavirus / Wild animals11,000
MERS2015-PresentCoronavirus / Bats, camels850
COVID-192019-PresentCoronavirus – Unknown (possibly pangolins)2.2M (Johns Hopkins University estimate as of Feb 1, 2021)

Note: Many of the death toll numbers listed above are best estimates based on available research. Some, such as the Plague of Justinian and Swine Flu, are subject to debate based on new evidence.

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.

Importing Disease

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.

Tracking Infectiousness

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.

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Technology

Which Streaming Service Has the Most Subscriptions?

From Netflix and Disney+ to Spotify and Apple Music, we rank the streaming services with the most monthly paid subscriptions.

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Streaming Service Subscriptions 2020 - Share

Which Streaming Service Has The Most Subscriptions?

Many companies have launched a streaming service over the past few years, trying to capitalize on the digital media shift and launching the so-called “streaming wars.”

After Netflix grew from a small DVD-rental company to a household name, every media company from Disney to Apple saw recurring revenues ripe for the taking. Likewise, the audio industry has long-since accepted Spotify’s rise to prominence, as streaming has become the de facto method of consumption for many.

But it was actually the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic that solidified the foothold of digital streaming, with subscription services seeing massive growth over the last year. Although it was expected that many new services would flounder along the way, media subscription services saw wide scale growth and adoption almost across the board.

We’ve taken the video, audio, and news subscription services with 5+ million subscribers to see who came out on top—and who has grown the most quickly—over the past year. Data comes from the FIPP media association as well as individual company reports.

Streaming Service Giants: Netflix and Amazon

The top of the streaming giant pantheon highlights two staples of business: the first-mover advantage and the power of conglomeration.

With 200+ million global subscribers, Netflix has capitalized on its position as the first and primary name in digital video streaming. Though its consumer base in the Americas has begun to plateau, the company’s growth in reach (190+ countries) and content (70+ original movies slated for 2021) has put it more than 50 million subscribers ahead of its closest competition.

The story is the same in the audio market, where Spotify’s 144 million subscriber base is more than double that of Apple Music, the next closest competitor with 68 million subscribers.

Meanwhile, Amazon’s position as the second most popular video streaming service with 150 million subscribers might be surprising. However, Prime Video subscriptions are included with membership to Amazon Prime, which saw massive growth in usage during the pandemic.

ServiceTypeSubscribers (Q4 2020)
NetflixVideo203.7M
Amazon Prime VideoVideo150.0M
SpotifyAudio144.0M
Tencent VideoVideo120.0M
iQIYIVideo119.0M
Disney+Video94.9M
YoukuVideo90.0M
Apple MusicAudio68.0M
Amazon Prime MusicAudio55.0M
Tencent Music (Group)Audio51.7M
ViuVideo41.4M
Alt BalajiVideo40M
HuluVideo38.8M
Eros NowVideo36.2M
Sirius XmAudio34.4M
YouTube PremiumVideo/Audio30M
Disney+ HotstarVideo18.5M
Paramount+Video17.9M
HBO MaxVideo17.2M
Starz/StarzPlay/PantayaVideo13.7M
ESPN+Video11.5M
Apple TV+Video10M
DAZNVideo8M
DeezerAudio7M
PandoraAudio6.3M
New York TimesNews6.1M

Another standout is the number of large streaming services based in Asia. China-based Tencent Video (also known as WeTV) and Baidu’s iQIYI streaming services both crossed 100 million paid subscribers, with Alibaba’s Youku not far behind with 90 million.

Disney Leads in Streaming Growth

But perhaps most notable of all is Disney’s rapid ascension to the upper echelons of streaming service giants.

Despite Disney+ launching in late 2019 with a somewhat lackluster content library (only one original series with one episode at launch), it has quickly rocketed both in terms of content and its subscriber base. With almost 95 million subscribers, it has amassed more subscribers in just over one year than Disney expected it could reach by 2024.

ServiceTypePercentage Growth (2019)
Disney+VideoNew
Apple TV+VideoNew
Disney+ HotstarVideo516.7%
ESPN+Video475.0%
Starz/StarzPlay/PantayaVideo211.4%
Paramount+Video123.8%
HBO MaxVideo115.0%
Amazon Prime VideoVideo100.0%
Alt BalajiVideo100.0%
YouTube PremiumVideo/Audio100.0%
DAZNVideo100.0%
Eros NowVideo92.6%
Amazon Prime MusicAudio71.9%
Tencent Music (Group)Audio66.8%
New York TimesNews60.5%
SpotifyAudio44.0%
HuluVideo38.6%
ViuVideo38.0%
NetflixVideo34.4%
Tencent VideoVideo27.7%
iQiyiVideo19.0%
Sirius XmAudio17.4%
Apple MusicAudio13.3%
YoukuVideo9.6%
PandoraAudio1.6%
DeezerAudio0%

The Disney+ wave also spurred growth in partner streaming services like Hotstar and ESPN+, while other services with smaller subscriber bases saw large growth rates thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lingering question is how the landscape will look when the pandemic starts to wind down, and when all the new players are accounted for. NBCUniversal’s Peacock, for example, has reached over 30 million subscribers as of January 2021, but the company hasn’t yet disclosed how many are paid subscribers.

Likewise, competitors are investing in content libraries to try and make up ground on Netflix and Disney. HBO Max is slated to start launching internationally in June 2021, and ViacomCBS rebranded and expanded CBS All Access into Paramount+.

And international growth is vital. Three of the top six video streaming services by subscribers are based in China, while Indian services Hotstar, ALTBalaji, and Eros Now all saw surges in subscriber bases, with more room left to grow.

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Markets

World Beer Index 2021: What’s the Beer Price in Your Country?

The global desire for beer prevails even in a pandemic. These maps compare the average beer price in 58 countries—just how much do we drink?

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What’s the Beer Price in Your Country?

View the high resolution of this infographic by clicking here.

Although fewer people have been able to grab a beer at the pub during this pandemic, the global desire for beer prevails. For example, sales of the Corona beer actually shot up in the past year, despite—or perhaps because of—associations with the coronavirus.

This World Beer Index from Expensivity compares the average price of a bottle of beer in 58 countries in a detailed map. Additionally, we show which countries spend the most on beer per capita, and just how much beer people really drink.

Pricey Pints: The Average Beer Price

Researchers calculated the average price of a typical bottle of beer (330ml, just shy of a pint) from well known brands via online stores and statistics database Numbeo. In addition, local beer prices were pulled from hotel and bar menus, and average values converted to USD.

In Qatar, you’d have to shell out $11.26 for a single beer, which would surely make for a really expensive night out on the town. In part, this is because in 2019, the Muslim-majority country introduced a 100% excise tax on top the previous sales price of all alcohol imports.

These steep prices are aimed at tourists—and with Qatar hosting the 2022 men’s soccer World Cup, there’ll be thousands of visitors in the country looking for a cold one at any price.

RankCountryCapital CityAverage Price of a Beer
1South AfricaPretoria, Bloemfontein, Cape Town$1.68
2UkraineKyiv$1.76
3ArgentinaBuenos Aires$1.79
4Bosnia And HerzegovinaSarajevo$1.96
5GhanaAccra$2.05
6TunisiaTunis$2.09
7GeorgiaTbilisi$2.30
8North MacedoniaSkopje$2.34
9ChileSantiago$2.40
10Czech Republic (Czechia)Prague$2.49
11RwandaKigali$2.52
12BrazilBrasilia$2.52
13HaitiPort Au Prince$2.66
14ColombiaBogota$2.72
15SpainMadrid$2.74
16PanamaPanama City$2.74
17Sri LankaColombo$2.77
18HungaryBudapest$2.84
19ArmeniaYerevan$2.96
20IndonesiaJakarta$3.17
21AzerbaijanBaku$3.18
22GuyanaGeorgetown$3.39
23BoliviaSanta Cruz$3.42
24KazakhstanNur-Sultan$3.44
25BelgiumBrussels$3.47
26TurkeyIstanbul$3.61
27MaltaValletta$3.65
28BelarusMinsk$3.72
29EgyptCairo$3.80
30IndiaNew Delhi$3.90
31CanadaOttawa$3.96
32AustriaVienna$3.99
33WalesCardiff$4.06
34NepalKathmandu$4.13
35ScotlandEdinburgh$4.18
36GreeceAthens$4.25
37PhilippinesManila$4.25
38PolandWarsaw$4.37
39MexicoMexcio City$4.46
40LithuaniaVilnius$4.55
41South KoreaSeoul$4.56
42NetherlandsAmsterdam$4.60
43GermanyBerlin$4.64
44MalaysiaKuala Lumpur$4.74
45United StatesWashington D.C.$4.75
46ThailandBangkok$4.82
47PortugalLisbon$5.06
48RussiaMoscow$5.08
49SingaporeSingapore$5.17
50DenmarkCopenhagen$5.20
51ItalyRome$5.83
52EnglandLondon$5.97
53JapanTokyo$6.16
54SwitzerlandBern$6.23
55FranceParis$6.39
56ChinaBeijing$7.71
57JordanAmman$9.40
58QatarDoha$11.26

At just $1.68 per bottle, South Africa has the lowest average beer price thanks at least partially to cultural norms of buying in bulk.

Cashing In: The Per Capita Spend on Beer

The price of a single beer is one thing, but which countries spend the most on beer itself? Germany unsurprisingly tops the list here with nearly $2,000 of expenditures per capita, bolstered by its strong beer culture and annual Oktoberfest celebration.

Germany also prides itself on the purity of its beer—the vast majority of brewers follow the Reinheitsgebot, centuries-old purity laws that broadly state that beer may contain only three ingredients: water, barley, and hops.

World Beer Index 2021 - Per Capita Spend on Beer 820px
View the high resolution of this infographic by clicking here.

Following closely behind is Poland, which spends $1,738 per capita. Meanwhile, the U.S. ranks eighth in the world for the highest spending on beer per capita at $1,554—beer is also the country’s most popular alcoholic beverage.

Getting Boozy: How Much Beer Do People Drink?

Using data from the World Health Organization, the visualization below also digs into how much beer is consumed around the world per capita.

The Czech Republic emerges on top in this regard, with 468 beers on average in a year—that works out to 1.3 beers per day. Spain and Germany are next with 417 and 411 beers, respectively.

World Beer Index 2021 - Per Capita Beer Consumption 820px
View the high resolution of this infographic by clicking here.

On the flip side, people in Haiti only drink about four beers yearly. This may be because they prefer something a little stronger—97% of alcohol consumption in the nation comes from spirits such as rum.

Beer has been around for over 7,000 years. No matter the beer price in your country, it’s worth raising a glass to the timelessness of this humble beverage.

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