THE Coronavirus has the world watching and waiting to see how it develops hour-to-hour, amid fears it will indeed be declared a pandemic. Looking back, the world has faced pandemics many times in history, with devastating outcomes.

The difference between an epidemic and a pandemic is…?

An outbreak of a disease that attacks large numbers of people and may spread through one or a number of communities is defined as an epidemic, while a pandemic is the situation that develops when an epidemic goes global.

The coronavirus seems well on its way?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that although it is too early to call it a pandemic presently, countries should be “in a phase of preparedness” as the virus - which originated in China and causes respiratory disease - continues to spread, with outbreaks in South Korea, Iran and Italy causing concern in recent days.

Australia has already implemented its emergency response plan meaning it is "operating on the basis that there is" a pandemic.

How many cases in total?

The numbers are changing all the time but at least 80,000 globally, with the death toll at over 2,700.

What’s the worst pandemic in history?

The Spanish flu pandemic is regarded as the deadliest, claiming the lives of 50 million and infecting 500 million as it spread across the world in 1918, in the pre-antibiotic era.

What caused it?

It is thought that it was caused by bacteria, rather than a virus, and seemed to hit younger people more, with older people possibly previously experiencing a similar strain that allowed them a degree of immunity.

The Black Death?

The bubonic plague ravaged across the world, claiming the lives of up to 200 million between the 14th and 17th centuries, so many in fact that it became known as the ‘Black Death’.

The Great Plague of London in 1665 killed a quarter of the city’s population. While 68,596 deaths were recorded in the city, the exact number was probably over 100,000.

There was an outbreak in China last year, but nowadays, it is more easily treated.


In 2015, Zika emerged in Brazil, transmitted by a mosquito. It soon spread and affected more than 1.5 million people in 68 countries and was linked to the births of thousands of babies in Brazil with 'microcephaly', a neurological disorder where they had underdeveloped brains.

Swine flu?

First identified in Mexico in April 2009, 'swine flu' became known as such due to its similarity to flu viruses that affect pigs. It spread swiftly from country to country because it was a new virus that few young people were immune to.

It was the second pandemic to involve the virus known as ‘H1N1' - the first of them being the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. The global death toll the second time around was around 300,000.

What now?

Tedros Ghebreyesus, head of the WHO, said of the Coronavirus - which has the official name Covid-19 - that “Every scenario is still on the table”.