This is a list of the largest known epidemics and pandemics caused by an infectious disease. Widespread non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer are not included. An epidemic is the rapid spread of disease to a large number of people in a given population within a short period of time. For example, in meningococcal infections, an attack rate in excess of 15 cases per 100,000 people for two consecutive weeks is considered an epidemic. Due to the large time spans, the first plague pandemic (6th century–8th century) and the second plague pandemic (14th century–early 19th century) are shown by individual outbreaks, such as the Plague of Justinian (first pandemic) and the Black Death (second pandemic). On the other hand, tuberculosis (TB) became epidemic in Europe in the 18th and 19th century, showing a seasonal pattern, and is still taking place globally. The morbidity and mortality of TB and HIV/AIDS have been closely linked, known as "TB/HIV syndemic". However, due to lack of sources which describe major TB epidemics with definite time spans and death tolls, they are currently not included in the following lists.

Major epidemics and pandemics by death toll

Events in boldface are ongoing. For a given epidemic, the average of its estimated death toll range is used for ranking. If the death toll averages of two or more epidemics equal, then the smaller the range, the higher the rank. For the historical records of world population, see Estimates of historical world population.


Events in boldface are ongoing.

See also

* * * *



Further reading

* Barry, John M. ''The Great Influenza.'' New York: Viking Penguin, 2018. ("Spanish flu" epidemic 1918–1919) * Defoe, Daniel. ''A Journal of the Plague Year''. Zweihandler Press, 2019. (London bubonic plague 1665) * Eisenberg, Merle, and Lee Mordechai. "The Justinianic Plague and Global Pandemics: The Making of the Plague Concept." ''American Historical Review'' 125.5 (2020): 1632-1667. * Fenn, Elizabeth A. ''Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82''. New York: Hill & Wang, 2001. * * * * Seager, Nicholas. "Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics: Epistemology and Fiction in Defoe's 'A Journal of the Plague Year'." ''The Modern Language Review'' (2008): 639-653
{{DEFAULTSORT:Epidemics, List Of * Category:Disease outbreaks Category:Globalization-related lists Category:Lists by death toll Category:Lists of disasters