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.
Visualizing the Range of EVs on Major Highway Routes
We visualize how far popular EV models will take you on real-world routes between major cities, and which are the most cost effective.
The Range of EVs on Major Highway Routes
Between growing concerns around climate change, new commuting behaviors due to COVID-19, and imminent policy changes, the global transition to electric vehicles (EVs) is well under way.
By the year 2040, sales of electric vehicles are projected to account for 58% of new car sales, up from just 2.7% currently.
But switching from a gasoline car to an electric one is not seamless. With charging and range capacities to consider, and the supporting infrastructure still being slowly rolled out in many parts of the world, understanding the realities of EV transportation is vital.
Above, we highlight 2020 all-electric vehicle range on well-recognized routes, from California’s I-5 in the U.S. to the A2 autobahn in Germany. The data on estimated ranges and costs are drawn from the U.S. EPA as well as directly from manufacturer websites.
The EV Breakdown: Tesla is King of Range
For many consumers, the most important aspect of an electric vehicle is how far they can travel on a single charge.
Whether it’s for long commutes or out-of-city trips, vehicles must meet a minimum threshold to be considered practical for many households. As the table below shows, Tesla’s well-known EVs are far-and-away the best option for long range drivers.
|Vehicle||Range (miles)||Range (km)||MSRP||Cost per mile|
|Tesla Model S Long Range Plus||402||647||$74,990||$186.54|
|Tesla Model X Long Range Plus||351||565||$79,990||$227.89|
|Tesla Model S Performance||348||560||$94,990||$272.96|
|Tesla Model 3 Long Range||322||518||$46,990||$145.93|
|Tesla Model Y Long Range||316||509||$49,990||$158.20|
|Tesla Model X Performance||305||491||$99,990||$327.84|
|Tesla Model 3 LR Performance||299||481||$54,990||$183.91|
|Tesla Model Y Performance||291||468||$59,990||$206.15|
|Chevrolet Bolt EV||259||417||$36,620||$141.39|
|Hyundai Kona Electric||258||415||$37,190||$144.15|
|Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus||250||402||$37,990||$151.96|
|Kia Niro EV||239||385||$39,090||$163.56|
|Nissan LEAF e+ S||226||364||$38,200||$169.03|
|Audi e-tron Sportback||218||351||$69,100||$316.97|
|Nissan LEAF e+ SV/SL||215||346||$39,750||$184.88|
|Porsche Taycan 4S Perf Battery Plus||203||327||$112,990||$556.60|
|Porsche Taycan Turbo||201||323||$153,510||$763.73|
|Porsche Taycan Turbo S||192||309||$187,610||$977.14|
|Hyundai IONIQ Electric||170||274||$33,045||$194.38|
|MINI Cooper SE||110||177||$29,900||$271.82|
In an industry where innovation and efficiency are vital, Tesla’s first-mover advantage is evident. From the more affordable Model 3 to the more luxurious Model S, the top eight EVs with the longest ranges are all Tesla vehicles.
At 402 miles (647 km), the range of the number one vehicle (the Tesla Model S Long Range Plus) got 127 miles more per charge than the top non-Tesla vehicle, the Polestar 2—an EV made by Volvo’s standalone performance brand.
Closer Competition in Cost
Though Tesla leads on overall range and battery capacity, accounting for the price of each vehicle shows that cost-efficiency is far more competitive among brands.
By dividing the retail price by the maximum range of each vehicle, we can paint a clearer picture of efficiency. Leading the pack is the Chevrolet Bolt, which had a cost of $141.39/mile of range in 2020 while still placing in the top 10 for range with 259 miles (417 km).
Just behind in second place was the Hyundai Kona electric at $144.15/mile of range, followed by the Tesla Model 3—the most efficient of the automaker’s current lineup. Rounding out the top 10 are the Nissan LEAF and Tesla Model S, but the difference from number one to number ten was minimal, at just over $45/mile.
|Top 10 All-Electric Vehicles by Cost Efficiency|
|Vehicle||Cost per mile|
|Chevrolet Bolt EV||$141.39|
|Hyundai Kona Electric||$144.15|
|Tesla Model 3 Long Range||$145.93|
|Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus||$151.96|
|Tesla Model Y Long Range||$158.20|
|Kia Niro EV||$163.56|
|Nissan LEAF e+ S||$169.03|
|Tesla Model 3 LR Performance||$183.91|
|Nissan LEAF e+ SV/SL||$184.88|
|Tesla Model S Long Range Plus||$186.54|
Higher Ranges and Lower Costs on the Horizon
The most important thing to consider, however, is that the EV industry is entering a critical stage.
On one hand, the push for electrification and innovation in EVs has driven battery capacity higher and costs significantly lower. As batteries account for the bulk of weight, cost, and performance in EVs, those dividends will pay out in longer ranges and greater efficiencies with newer models.
Equally important is the strengthening global push for electric vehicle adoption. In countries like Norway, EVs are already among the best selling cars on the market, while adoption rates in China and the U.S. are steadily climbing. This is also being impacted by policy decisions, such as California’s recent announcement that it would be banning the sale of gasoline cars by 2035.
Meanwhile, the only thing outpacing the growing network of Tesla superchargers is the company’s rising stock price. Not content to sit on the sidelines, competing automakers are rapidly trying to catch up. Nissan’s LEAF is just behind the Tesla Model 3 as the world’s second-best-selling EV, and Audi recently rolled out a supercharger network that can charge its cars from 0% to 80% at a faster rate than Tesla.
As the tidal wave of electric vehicle demand and adoption continues to pick up steam, consumers can expect increasing innovation to drive up ranges, decrease costs, and open up options.
Correction: A previous version of this graphic showed a European route that was the incorrect distance.
3D Map: The U.S. Cities With the Highest Economic Output
The total U.S. GDP stands at a whopping $21 trillion, but which metro areas contribute to the most in terms of economic output?
3D Map: The U.S. Cities With the Highest Economic Output
At over $21 trillion, the U.S. holds the title of the world’s largest economy—accounting for almost a quarter of the global GDP total. However, the fact is that a few select cities are responsible for a large share of the country’s total economic output.
This unique 3D map from HowMuch puts into perspective the city corridors which contribute the most to the American economy at large.
Top 10 Metros by Economic Output
The visualization pulls the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA, 2018), and ranks the top 10 metro area economies in the country.
One thing is immediately clear—the New York metro area dwarfs all other metro area by a large margin. This cluster, which includes Newark and Jersey City, is bigger than the metro areas surrounding Los Angeles and Chicago combined.
|Rank||Metro Area||State codes||GDP (2018)|
|#1||New York-Newark-Jersey City||NY-NJ-PA||$1.77T|
|#2||Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim||CA||$1.05T|
|#7||Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land||TX||$0.48T|
Coming in fourth place is San Francisco on the West Coast, with $549 billion in total economic output each year. Meanwhile in the South, the Dallas metroplex brings in $478 billion, placing it sixth in the ranks.
It’s worth noting that using individual metro areas is one way to view things, but geographers also think of urban life in broader terms as well. Given the proximity of cities in the Northeast, places like Boston, NYC, and Washington, D.C. are sometimes grouped into a single megaregion. When viewed this way, the corridor is actually the world’s largest in economic terms.
U.S. States: Sum of Its Parts
Zooming out beyond just these massive cities demonstrates the combined might of the U.S. in another unique way. Tallying all the urban and rural areas, every state economy can be compared to the size of entire countries.
According to the American Enterprise Institute, the state of California brings in a GDP that rivals the United Kingdom in its entirety.
By this same measure, Texas competes with Canada in terms of pure economic output, despite a total land area that’s 15 times less that of the Great White North.
With COVID-19 continuing to impact parts of the global economy disproportionately, how will these kinds of economic comparisons hold up in the future?
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