A disease that spreads over a large portion of a continent or the world is called a pandemic. These killer bugs have plagued mankind many times over the centuries. The Black Death of the 14th century killed nearly seventy million people, mostly in Europe. The Plague of Justinian eliminated nearly forty million lives worldwide in the 6th century. The Antonine Darkness of the 2nd century was fatal to five million citizens of the Roman Empire. Asia, especially China and India, have lost countless millions due to disease over the course of thousands of years. An estimated two to three million natives of the Americas died of foreign diseases after European explorers and conquerors reached their shores. More recently AIDS has taken the lives of twenty-five million since 1981.
Concerns arose a few years ago over the rapid spread of the avian bird flu. Migrating wild birds were literally spreading the H5N1 virus throughout the world. Swains and chickens are most susceptible to the virulent flu strain. Human cases are uncommon but the death rate for those infected is high – approximately 50%. Fears are that the virus could mutate into an easily transmittable human-to-human disease, sparking the next worldwide pandemic. The question is not If but When might this occur.
A Russian historian and later professor of medicine, A.L. Tchijewsky, spent his life collecting, recording, and comparing wars, revolutions, migrations, and other momentous events in history from 500 B.C. to 1900 A.D. Tchijewsky was most interested in any relation between historical events and sunspot activity. One of his most celebrated discoveries concerned the ebb and tide of worldwide epidemics.
Tchijewsky found that epidemics like diphtheria, cholera, smallpox, tuberculosis, polio, and typhus run in cycles of 11 years. 72% of the time epidemics thrive during peak sunspot activity, and only 28% of great plagues have flourished during solar minimums.
The latest bird flu (H5N1) emerged in Hong Kong in 1997 and resurfaced in 2003 both near the 2000 sunspot peak. Other deadly virus mutations have also occurred during sunspot peaks: 1947, 1957, 1968, and the 1918 pandemic that killed 80 to 100 million people (estimates vary). The pandemics of 1957 and 1968, although small in comparison to the 1918-1919 pandemic, were believed to be the result of bird and human flu strains combining. All it takes is the avian flu in chickens, for instance, to infect pigs sick with the human flu; the resulting hybrid virus would be a flu that humans could easily catch.
We again need to be on guard as the sunspot cycle is nearing its peak in 2013-14. The world could be on the merge of another killer pandemic.
In February 2013 a new bird flu strain (H7N9) emerged in China that infected 11 people 4 of whom died. H5N1 is still the deadliest strain killing 60% of those infected.
Research continues on ways to combat a modern pandemic. In fact, in 2005, under strict government control, scientists rebuilt the H1N1 avian influenza A virus from genetic material kept in cold storage since 1918. In May 2007 researchers were able to successfully isolate human antibodies in survivors of the H5N1 virus. These antibodies were, then, tested on mice and found to prevent and/or cure the disease. Human trials will be scheduled in the near future after additional research is conducted.
Although sunspots have peaked and are in slow decline, 2016 saw the emergence of the Zika virus carried by a particular common species of mosquito. Pregnant women are most prone to the virus as their offspring can develop brain deformities. The virus spread to America in 2016 from the Caribbean region and South America. The virus will not likely cause serious harm to the world’s population at this time due to the fact that sunspots are declining.