Not all viruses and bacteria can cause disease, but some can make people very sick. Until the mid-1800s, people didn’t know about germs. They thought illness was caused by bad air from swamps or even evil spirits. During this time, millions of people got sick and many of them died. An epidemic happens when many people get sick at once because a disease spreads.
Epidemics can still occur today, especially in places with limited clean water and medical care. Epidemics spread more quickly in cities because the diseases pass quickly in crowded conditions.
Fun Facts about Epidemic for Kids
- Small pox is caused by the variola virus. Vaccines have wiped it out now, but it killed millions of people. It caused fevers, rashes and blisters. When Spanish explorers came to Central America in 1519, they brought the small pox virus with them. The disease killed more than 27 million Native Americans in 50 years.
- Plague is a scary disease caused by bacteria. It is carried by fleas that live on rats. When the rats die, the fleas sometimes move to humans. The fleas feed on human blood, which spreads the disease. Plague can be treated today with antibiotics, but in the 1340s, it killed one-third of the people in Europe. In 1665, the plague killed 100,000 people in London. Doctors wore a beaked mask filled with strong-smelling herbs as they treated patients infected with the plague. They didn’t know that the disease was caused by bacteria. They thought the herbs could keep the plague away.
- In the United States, we are very lucky to have clean water and food. We have good medical care and medicines to keep us healthy. These things help us avoid epidemics.
- Germ: bacteria or viruses that can cause illness
- Swamp: wet, marshy area
- Evil: intent on doing harm
- Crowded: tight, full
- Herb: leafy plant with a strong smell; oregano, lavender and thyme are herbs
Learn More about What an Epidemic is and How it Occurs
Take a peek at this video about the Black Death Epidemic:
A storytelling video about the historical plague, Black Death.
Question: How many people died in the Black Death plague?
Answer: 20 million people died. Animals, such as cows, sheep and chickens, also died.