The most lethal viruses of all Time


Table of Contents

Humans have been fighting off viruses way before the time our species evolved into its current version. In the case of some viral diseases vaccinations and antiviral medications have helped us stop the spread of infections to a minimum and helped people suffering from illness recover. In the case of one disease called smallpox, we’ve managed to eliminate it, clearing the globe of cases.

But, we’re some way off from eliminating viruses. A variety of viruses have spread from humans to animals in recent years which have caused massive epidemics, and leaving thousands. The virus that triggered in the period 2014 to 2016 was Ebola epidemic within West Africa kills up to 90% of those they infect, making it the most deadly part in the Ebola family.


However, there are other viruses which are equally harmful and some are more deadly. Certain viruses, like the coronavirus that is currently causing epidemics across the globe with lower mortality rates but constitute a major danger to the health of our population since we do not have the technology to stop these viruses.

Here are the top 12 killers that are ranked based on the chance that someone is likely to die if affected by one of them and the number of people they’ve been killed and whether or not they pose a threat to the public at large.


Marburg Virus

Based on the World Health Organization (WHO) The Marburg virus was initially discovered by researchers in 1967 after small outbreaks were reported among laboratory employees in Germany who had come in contact with infected monkeys that were imported from Uganda. Marburg viruses symptoms can be comparable to Ebola in the sense that both can trigger hemorrhagic fever which means that those who contract the virus suffer from high fevers as well as bleeding all over the body, which can cause organ failure, shock and even death, according to Mayo Clinic.

The fatality rate for the case during the initial epidemic (1967) at 24%. However, there was a rate of 83% during an outbreak that occurred in 1998/2000 of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and 100% for the outbreak of 2017 in Uganda in accordance with the WHO.


The first documented Marburg disease outbreak to occur that was reported in West Africa was confirmed in August 2021. The victim was a male from the south-western region of Guinea who was diagnosed with a headache, fever as well as abdominal pain, fatigue as well as gingival hemorrhage. The outbreak lasted for 6 weeks. During that time, there were high-risk contacts of 170 however, just one person was confirmed to have been infected in the words of Reuters.

Ebola Virus

in 1976 the very first Ebola outbreaks among humans struck simultaniously in Republic of the Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ebola can be spread by contact with blood or other body fluids or tissues from people or animals. The strains that are known to exist vary greatly in the time they take to develop, Elke Muhlberger, an Ebola virus expert and associate professor of microbiology at Boston University, told Live Science.


A single strain of the virus, Ebola Reston doesn’t even cause sickness According the Essential Human Virology (2016). However, with those who are suffering from the Bundibugyo type, death rate can be as high as 50%, and can reach 71 percent for the Sudan strain.

The current outbreak of the disease within West Africa began in early 2014 and is now the most extensive and complex epidemic of this disease according to the WHO.


In December of 2020 in December 2020, in December 2020, the Ervebo vaccination was certified by U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This vaccine protects against the Zaire Ebola virus. The global stockpile was made available in January 2021.


While the rabies vaccines available for animals, which were developed in the 1920s, made the disease very rare in the advanced world, the condition persists as a serious issue in India and other parts of Africa.


The virus can be contracted following a scratch or bite from an animal that has been infected. It can cause brain damage and nerves. When symptoms start to manifest that death is usually the next step as per the National Health Service (NHS).

“It destroys the brain, it’s a really, really bad disease,” Muhlberger explained. “We have a vaccine against rabies, and we have antibodies that work against rabies, so if someone gets bitten by a rabid animal we can treat this person,” she added.

But, she added “if you don’t get treatment, there’s a 100% possibility you will die.”


In today’s world the most deadly virus is HIV. “It is still the one that is the biggest killer,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease doctor and spokesperson on behalf of the Infectious Disease Society of America.

About 32 million people have died of HIV since the illness was first discovered in the 1980s in the beginning. “The infectious disease that takes the biggest toll on mankind right now is HIV,” Adalja declared.


Effective antiviral medicines have allowed people to live for a long time in the midst of HIV. But , HIV is still a major threat to the majority of middle and low-income countries where 95percent of new HIV cases occur.

One in 25 adults in the WHO African region is HIV-positive, which means that more than two-thirds of those living with HIV around the world, according to the WHO. In the year 2020 there were 680,000 deaths due to HIV globally.


In 1980 in 1980, in 1980, the World Health Assembly declared the world was free of smallpox. Before that, people struggled with smallpox for thousands of years. And the disease claimed the lives of about 1 out of 3 people affected in the words of the BBC. It left those who survived with permanent, deep scars and, more often, blindness.

For populations outside of Europe in which people were not exposed to the disease prior to the introduction of it to their region deaths were more high. For instance, historians have estimated that smallpox, introduced by European explorationists, killed 90 percent of the people from the Americas. The 20th century, alone smallpox killed more than around 300 million, according to the BBC said.

“It was something that had a huge burden on the planet, not just death but also blindness, and that’s what spurred the campaign to eradicate from the Earth,” Adalja explained.


Hantavirus respiratory syndrome (HPS) first came to public notice in U.S. in 1993, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A young, healthy Navajo male and his wife who resided at the Four Corners area of the United States died within days of feeling short of breath. After a few months, health authorities identified hantavirus in a mouse in the house that belonged to one of affected individuals. Over 600 people in the U.S. have now contracted HPS and 36% of them have died due to the illness as per the CDC.

The virus does not spread from one person to the next People get the disease after exposure to droppings from mice that have been infected.

Prior to that, a different strain of virus called hantavirus brought about it to spread in beginning of the 1950s, in the Korean War, according to an article from 2010 published in The journal Clinical Microbiology Reviews. More than three thousand United Nations troops became infected with the virus, and around 11% of them passed away.

Although the virus was relatively unfamiliar to Western medical practice when it was first discovered at the U.S., researchers realized in the following years it was possible that Navajo medical traditions speak of an identical illness. They also connected the disease to mice.


In a typical flu season as many as 650,000 people around the world are likely to die of the disease as per WHO. However, occasionally the flu season is interrupted by a new strain becomes apparent the pandemic can result in the rapid spreading of the illness and, more often with higher mortality rates.

The most dangerous influenza pandemic, often referred to as”the Spanish flu, was first discovered in 1918. It sloughed as high as 40 percent of all the people in this world. It killed around 50 million people as per CDC.

“I think that it is possible that something like the 1918 flu outbreak could occur again,” Muhlberger stated. “If a new influenza strain found its way in the human population, and could be transmitted easily between humans, and caused severe illness, we would have a big problem.”


Dengue virus first became apparent around 1950 in Philippines as well as Thailand it has spread across the subtropical and tropical regions around the globe as per Clinical Microbiology Reviews. As high as 40 percent of the inhabitants live in regions where dengue is prevalent as well as the illness, as per Nature, the scientific Journal Nature — which includes the mosquitoes carrying it, is likely to increase in severity as the climate becomes warmer.

As per WHO, dengue infects 100 to 400 million people each year, but dengue fever has a lower death rate than other viruses. with a rate of 1%. the virus could cause an Ebola-like condition known as dengue hemorrhagic disease, which has the highest death rate of 20 percent when left untreated. “We really need to think more about dengue virus because it is a real threat to us,” Muhlberger declared.

A vaccine against Dengue has been approved the year 2019 through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be used by children aged 9-16 who live in regions in which dengue is prevalent and who have confirmed histories of virus infection, as per the CDC. In certain countries, a dengue vaccine is available to people between 9 and 45 years old. However it is required that the recipient has had the disease previously. Anyone who hasn’t been exposed to dengue before may be exposed to the risk of contracting severe dengue if they receive the vaccine.


Two vaccines are available to safeguard children from rotavirus, which is the most frequent cause of severe diarrhea sickness in babies and toddlers. The virus can be spread rapidly by using what is known as the oral route fecal (meaning that tiny particles of feces are consumed).

While children in developed countries are not often afflicted with rotavirus however, it is fatal within the world of developing nations, in which treatment for rehydration aren’t widely available.

It is estimated by the WHO estimates that around the world there are over 25 million visits to outpatients and two million hospitalizations per year because of rotavirus illnesses. Countries who have introduced vaccines have reported dramatic decreases in the number of deaths and hospitalizations due to rotavirus.


The virus that triggers the severe acute respiratory disorder, also known as SARS was first recognized in 2003 in the course of an epidemic in China in accordance with the WHO. The virus was likely to have originated in bats at first, but later, it was discovered to be a nocturnal mammal known as civets, before eventually infecting humans, as per The Journal of Virology. After the outbreak was triggered within China, SARS spread to 26 countries across the globe and infected thousands of people, and killing over 770 over many months, according to

The illness causes chills, fever and body aches. It frequently progresses into pneumonia, a severe lung condition that causes the lungs to get inflamed and swell with pus. SARS is estimated to have a mortality rate of 9.6 percent, but there have been no instances from SARS were reported in the beginning of 2000s, according to CDC.


SARS-CoV-2 falls under the same group of virus as SARS-CoV which is also called coronaviruses. It was first discovered in December of 2019 within Wuhan, a Chinese City of Wuhan. The virus could have originated in bats, and then passed through an intermediate animal prior to becoming infected by humans, according to Nature.

The first outbreak led to the creation of a massive quarantine in Wuhan and other cities nearby as well as travel restrictions between and within affected countries and a global effort to create diagnostics, treatments and vaccines. Since the outbreak began this year, the virus has triggered more than five million deaths in the world in the words of Reuters.

The SARS-CoV-2 disease COVID-19 poses an increased risk to those who suffer from underlying health conditions according to WHO. The most common symptoms are cough, fever and loss of taste or smell, shortness of breath and more severe symptoms include chest pain, and loss of mobility.

On August. 23 in 2021, on the 23rd of August 2021, U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first COVID-19 vaccination, named Pfizer BioNTech. In December 2020, the vaccine became the first one to be approved following a huge clinical trial, as per Nature.


The virus responsible for Middle East respiratory syndrome, also known as MERS was the cause of one outbreak of the disease in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and another one in South Korea in 2015. The MERS virus is part of the same virus family that cause SARS-CoV and SARS CoV-2. According to WHO the disease can infect camels before spreading to human beings and may cause high fever, coughing, and shortness of breath for affected individuals.

MERS which is frequent within regions of Middle East, often progresses into severe pneumonia, and is estimated to have a mortality rate of about 35%. There is no vaccine to stop the spread of this disease as per the NHS. The best method to minimize the risk of contracting it is to wash your hands regularly and avoid contact with camels and consume any products that contain milk from animals that are raw.

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