last updated 3 May 2023

An epidemic is the rapid spread of disease to a large number of people in a given population within a short period of time.
Infectious diseases with high prevalence are not listed, such as malaria which may have killed 50-60 billion people throughout history>

Disease Date World
Infections Deaths Location % Lost
COVID-19 2020-23 7,794 762M* 7-30M † Worldwide 0.1%
0.33% in the US
Zika 2016 7,464 51 Worldwide
Ebola West Africa 2014-16 7,300 11,310 DRC, Uganda
H7N9 Bird Flu 2013 7,210 1568 616 China
MERS Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, 2012-2021 7,125 2494 858 Worldwide
H1N1 Swine Flu 2009 6,872 152 K - 575 K Worldwide 0.004%
H5N1 Bird Flu 2003-2019 6,789 861 455 China,Southeast Asia and Egypt
SARS 2002 6,301 8096 774 Worldwide
Nipah 1998 5,984 513 398 Malaysia
Ebola 1976 4,229 33577 13,562 Sudan
Marberg 1967 3,478 466 373 Angola
Spanish Flu 1918 1,800 466 17 - 100 M Worldwide 2.8%
HIV/AIDS 1 1981-
6,165 35 million 0.6%
3rd Plague
Blubonic plague
1855-1960 1,250 12-15M Worldwide 1.0%
Black Death
Bublonic Plague
1346-1353 443 75-200M Europe, Asia, andNorth Africa 30-60% of Europe
* COVID cases and deaths as of May 3, 2023
‡ The death rate for COVID-19 in the US is 0.33% and in Europe iy is 0.27%, but world rate is lower because Asia and Africa account for 76% of the world population but only 23% of the deaths. Official death count is 6.9 million, but there is severe undercounting and estimated go up to 30 M.
See The pandemics true death toll | Yhe Economist
and Actual Deaths on the Corona page
and List of pandemics and epidemics - Wikipedia

1. AIDS deaths are counted in various ways.
HIV, Number of people dying from HIV-related causes | WHO says 650,000 people died of HIV-related illnesses worldwide in 2021.
People dying from HIV globally in 2021 were 68% fewer than in 2004 (2 million -the peak).

Today, around 37 million worldwide live with HIV, of whom 22 million are on treatment. Why the HIV epidemic is not over | WHO More than 35 million people have died of HIV since the start of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Today, around 37 million worldwide live with HIV, of whom 22 million are on treatment.

Death rates are highest across Sub-Saharan Africa.
In 2021, South Africa, Mozambique and Nigeria had the highest number of deaths due to AIDS worldwide with around 51 thousand such deaths each.

Virus Data Deaths
Infections Deaths
SARS-CoV 2002-2003 10% 8,098 774
MERS-CoV 2012-2020 34% 2,519 866
Seasonal Flu (US) 0.1-0.2%
Ebola 2014-16 40%
Swine Flu (H1N1 variation) 2009 <0.1% 1B 151,700-575,400
COVID-19 2020-23 1.2-3% 512 M 6-15M*
* As of May 2022
SARS and MERS didn't cause the same level of devastation that COVID-19 has largely since they aren't as easily transmitted. Rather than moving by casual, person-to-person transmission, SARS and MERS spread from much closer contact, in between family members or health-care workers and patients (or, when it comes to MERS, from camels to people straight). These infections also aren't spread through pre-symptomatic transmission

1918 Flu:
Note: It was called the Spanish Flew because Spain was neutral in WWI so had not imposed wartime censorship on pandemic news like other countries, so were able to report on it.
One theory has it starting on American soil, in Kansas, where it migrated from birds to humans..
Disease Virus US
lation M
Peak US
New Deaths
per M
Date Months after
100th death
Total Deaths
United States
Rate US1
2018 Flu H1N1 103 23.8 11/13/18 4 ½ 675,000 17-50 M* 0.7%
Novel Corona COVID-19 331 10.5 01/17/21 10 1.12 million
a/o 5/1/23
6-15 M
a/o 5/12/22
1. Fatality rate is difficult to measure because infections are difficult to count and the 1918 death toll varies.
*. Other estimates for the 1918 death toll range from 7 million to 100 million.
I think the rate in the chart below should be per Million not per 1,000. The American Lung Association has the same chart.
But "Comparison of Estimated Excess Deaths in New York City During the COVID-19 and 1918 Influenza Pandemics" | JAMA Network shows the peak in New York city to be similar for the flu and COVID-19.
It still doesn't add up 20 new cases/million/day x 10 ½ months would be 657,500 total cases in the US, but the average cases/day according to this chart would be less than 20.
Why the Second Wave of the 1918 Flu Pandemic Was So Deadly - HISTORY says 195,000 died in the US in October; That would be an average of 63 per million per day.

Some of the early talk about flattening the curve during COVID-19 may have came from this comparison of Philatelphia vs St. Louis during the 1918 flu.

Spanish flu: How it compares to Covid-19 coronavirus in death rate and other factors - Vox
History of 1918 Flu Pandemic | Pandemic Influenza (Flu) | CDC
Spanish Flu | Wikipedia

List of pandemics and epidemics - Wikipedia

Why Did The World Shut Down For COVID-19 However Not Ebola, SARS Or Swine Influenza?
How coronavirus compares to the 1918 flu, H1N1 and other pandemics | CNBC