The novel coronavirus is on everyone’s mind. People are checking COVID-19 pandemic statistics daily, even hourly, and research facilities are putting all their efforts into finding treatment.
Global leaders are taking extreme precautionary measures to flatten the curve, even at the cost of inducing the worst economic recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
With the coronavirus spreading incredibly fast across the world and mortality rates rising, careful consideration of past and current pandemic stats and figures might just be what is needed to gain a clearer picture of the threat we are facing right now.
The Most Important Pandemic Facts and Stats
- Pandemics are more likely today than they were in the past
- A pandemic model can’t predict the future
- Over the last 100 years, two viruses a year spill over from animals to humans
- 70% of all emerging and re-emerging pathogens are zoonotic
- 69% of Americans intend to get or have already gotten a COVID-19 vaccine
- Within just a few months, COVID-19 increased extreme poverty globally by 7%
- In 2020, COVID-19 triggered a projected 8% drop in global CO2 emissions
- Over 100 million children worldwide will fall below the minimum reading proficiency level due to COVID-19
- COVID-19 has cost the world 400 million jobs as of Q2 2020
- Combating a pandemic costs 500 times more than preventing one
General Pandemic Statistics and Facts
A pandemic is defined as a disease outbreak occurring globally and spanning across numerous continents and countries.
Pandemics affect a more significant number of people and end up killing more when compared to an epidemic.
The following section examines a set of statistics and facts that present a general approach to pandemics and the basic things you need to understand about these ravaging disease outbreaks.
1. A pandemic is defined as a global outbreak of a disease.
According to top pandemic facts, a pandemic is declared when a bacterium or a novel virus spreads rapidly across the world and affects many people. The term comes from the Greek word pandemos, which means “pertaining to all people.”
2. Pandemics are more likely today than they were in the past.
(Gavi) (Public Health Online)
Isn’t it baffling that despite massive advances in science and technology, pandemic statistics for 2021 show that the world is witnessing more outbreaks of diseases with pandemic potentials? The reasons for this are plentiful, but here are a few of the most important ones:
Global Travel: Many people today travel on planes almost as often as on buses. 4.2 billion people traveled by plane in 2018 alone compared to 1 billion in 1990. Considering the speed of travel by air, an infected person can transfer a disease between cities in a matter of days. The largest pandemic in history killed some 500 million people.
Urbanization: The world is more urbanized now more than ever. UN estimates predict 66% of the world will live in urban areas by 2050.
Climate Change: The world’s changing climate conditions are causing all kinds of problems, including disease incubation and spread.
Other factors include increased contact between humans and animals and a shortage of healthcare workers, as highlighted in pandemic history reports.
3. The most significant difference between epidemic vs. pandemic is geographic spread.
Based on the epidemic facts and definitions, an epidemic refers to an outbreak of a disease that is spreading actively over a wide geographic area and affects a higher population proportion than expected. In short, an epidemic is a disease that is out of control.
4. Pandemics cause considerable increases in morbidity and mortality.
The mitigation efforts against pandemics can cause social and political disruption. Outbreaks could result in changes to individual behavior, violence, and tensions between citizens, as well as hinder economic growth. According to epidemic statistics and pandemic models, the novel coronavirus could knock $9 trillion off the global GDP in the next two years.
5. The WHO decides when to declare a pandemic.
There is no threshold to declare a pandemic, meaning that there’s no predetermined number of countries or people that need to be affected for the WHO to label an outbreak as a pandemic. For example, HIV is referred to as an epidemic rather than a pandemic due to declining prevalence rates, even though almost all countries in the world are affected.
6. A pandemic model can’t predict the future.
Epidemiologists studying global pandemic risk generally prepare models on the progression of infectious diseases and viruses; however, these models only showcase possibilities that can vary significantly based on people’s actions.
7. Pandemics typically slow down and end on their own.
The process of ending a pandemic is accelerated with the development of a vaccine or through preventive measures, such as improved personal and hand hygiene. However, there are cases when the pandemic seemingly slows down, only to be followed by another wave of high and rapid transmission.
Stats and Facts on Historical Plagues
This statistical section reminds us of some history lessons and experiences with a range of pandemics, flu, and similar cases. Stick with us as we walk you through facts on some of the deadliest pandemics alongside related incidences.
8. Over the last 100 years, two viruses a year spill over from animals to humans.
The world has identified as many as 219 viruses with the ability to infect humans. In 1901, the first virus able to infect man was discovered–the yellow fever virus.
However, research has explored depths ever since, with three to four new variants of the yellow fever virus being found yearly.
Evidence from flu epidemic statistics suggests that there’s still a lot of undiscovered harmful viruses. Over 2 out of every 3 human viruses can infect non-human hosts such as mammals and birds.
Many mammalian viruses can also cross species to infect human beings, though not all can be transmitted human to human.
What’s more, around half of all mammalian viruses capable of being transmitted by man can cause a pandemic, plague, flu, or other viral diseases, as highlighted in pandemic epidemiology reports.
9. The Black Death killed around 25 million people in Europe, or one-third of Europe’s population, between 1347 and 1352.
(Britannica, History, The Washington Post)
Also known as the Bubonic plague, this disease originated in rats and spread to humans through infected fleas. The Black Plague ended with the introduction of quarantine, a practice against epidemics still implemented in the modern world.
10. The 1918 Spanish flu was one of the “greatest pandemics in history.”
Spanish influenza claimed the lives of 50–100 million people, or approximately 5% of the entire population, making it the deadliest plague in history. Subsequent research into this outbreak’s cause has highlighted the importance of sanitation, immunization, and antiviral drugs in the battle against major pandemics.
11. 70% of all emerging and re-emerging pathogens are zoonotic.
(UN News) (LPELC)
Pathogens are biological agents that infect humans and cause illnesses and diseases. Zoonotic pathogens are those that can cross the species barrier to infect humans from animals and vice versa.
Reports on the deadliest pandemic in human history prove that there are many ways by which humans get in contact with these zoonotic pathogens. The most common is breathing air, contaminated food (like meat), drinking water, and hand-to-mouth contact.
Our bodies are typically fortified with a defense against these pathogens, such as probiotics that help us fight health problems like kidney diseases, etc.
However, sometimes, the body’s immune system or probiotics don’t succeed in defeating some pathogens, which allows the latter to increase and harm us. Reports on the influenza epidemic of 1918 contain facts that bear testament to this.
12. 80% of swine flu-related deaths occurred in people under the age of 65.
(Business Insider, WHO)
Pandemic flu statistics prove swine flu, caused by an A virus (H1N1), to be the first pandemic of the 21st century. It was also the first for which any pandemic plans and measures were introduced, as well as the first outbreak for which a vaccine was developed and deployed to several countries during the first year of the epidemic.
13. Possibly the worst pandemic in history, HIV/AIDS, caused the death of 35 million people across the planet since 1981.
(Washington Post, HIV.gov, WHO)
There were around 37.9 million people in the world with HIV/AIDS in 2018, 1.7 million of whom were children. Due to increased awareness and access to antiretroviral therapy (ART), however, mortality rates among adults and children have drastically plummeted today.
14. Deforestation and extinction are increasing the likelihood of pandemics.
Researchers and scientists have suspected and warned for decades that some human activities create breeding grounds for pandemics.
Governments largely ignored these warnings–primarily due to the lack of evidence in the past few years. However, with the advent of 21st-century pandemics, more attention has focused on investigating these previous claims. Unsurprisingly, results are in the affirmative.
Pandemic facts established over the years show that animal species go extinct due to “expanding cities” and deforestation.
A few of these species manage to survive, and these are usually the badass ones from which dangerous pathogens can migrate to humans.
Rats and bats are magnificent examples of species that hardly varnish due to human activities.
15. 33 Ebola outbreaks have been recorded since 1976.
(WebMD, Business Insider)
The 2014 outbreak was one of the most severe pandemics in Africa, with 28,600 infected people and 11,325 dead, most of whom were located in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The Ebola virus in West Africa caused economic damages in the amount of a whopping $4.3 billion.
16. SARS killed 774 people out of the 8,098 it infected in 2003.
(CDC, Business Insider)
SARS, one of the seven coronaviruses that can affect people, has raised awareness over preventing viral disease transmission and contributed to the fast global response against the current COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 Pandemic Statistics
The world is currently battling a pandemic, and there’s plenty of data about it right now. In the following paragraphs, we’ll dive into some of the most important and sometimes startling facts about the COVID-19 pandemic. So fasten your seat belts, or better still, wear your face masks!
17. 69% of Americans intend to get or have already gotten a COVID-19 vaccine.
(Pew Research Center)
According to recent COVID pandemic statistics, more Americans are willing to take the COVID-19 vaccine now than previously. Back in November 2020, before Biden’s administration commenced, only about 60% of Americans said they’d get a vaccine.
However, over the past few weeks, reports have it that 19% of Americans have gotten one or more coronavirus vaccines, with another 50% bent on or planning to get one–totaling 69%. This could be primarily due to optimism that Biden’s administration will handle the coronavirus crisis more competently.
Also, public views on the vaccine vary across demographics and political groups. However, according to some COVID pandemic statistics for 2021, people are showing more willingness to be vaccinated.
18. As of July 20th, 2021, there were more than 190,000,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus globally.
The novel coronavirus is present in almost all countries globally, i.e., in 210 countries and territories worldwide and two international conveyances. To date, more than 4,000,000 people have died from the consequences of the infection, and around 175,000,000 people recovered.
19. America got closer to normal by July 4, 2021.
President Biden set forth this seemingly over-ambitious goal during celebrations of the U.S Independence Day. He has instructed all American states to ensure all American adults are eligible for vaccination by May 1.
Even though COVID-19 is not yet the deadliest pandemic in history, the administration aimed to achieve this by administering 2 million vaccine shots a day.
20. With 1,812,220 people with COVID-19, the USA has the largest number of confirmed cases in the world.
(Worldometer, New York Times)
According to the most recent numbers on the pandemic infection rate, the USA is followed by Brazil (469,510), Russia (396,575), Spain (286,308), and Italy (232,664). Although cases have been recorded in all 50 states, New York has the most significant number of cases (378,931 confirmed cases and 29,827 deaths).
21. Within just a few months, COVID-19 increased extreme poverty globally by 7%.
Before COVID-19, there had been a 20-year streak of progress in helping eradicate poverty in the world.
Lower middle-income countries have a poverty line of $3.20 a day, but 68 million people have since fallen below this line, as evident in several COVID pandemic statistics for 2021.
The extreme poverty line is marked at $1.90 a day. The current pandemic pushed up to 37 million people below this line in 2020 alone.
These figures are an accurate representation of just how many people scratch and claw every day to put food on their table for their families. The stats are even worse in Africa, where informal workers’ income was depleted by more than 80%.
22. The USA also has the highest mortality rate (almost 5% as of April 15, 2020).
(The Washington Post)
Singapore has a fatality rate of 0.2%, while in Germany, fewer than three out of 100 confirmed cases resulted in fatalities. But these numbers can be deceiving, as facts on this major pandemic reveal.
On April 17, China raised the Wuhan death toll by 50% after including deaths that went undiagnosed in the early days of the epidemic. The actual mortality rate will be difficult to determine until more data is available.
23. COVID-19 has caused twice as many financial losses as the Great Recession of 2008.
While the spread of coronavirus is more in some countries than others, according to COVID-19 pandemic facts, one thing that affected each country with almost equal seriousness was the wide-ranging economic catastrophe that followed it.
More than $18 trillion has already been spent worldwide in a bid to rejuvenate economies. However, the International Monetary Fund says the world will lose an additional $12 trillion to this pandemic by the end of 2021. This puts our time as the worst recession period since WW2 came to an end.
24. Currently, Germany has the highest rate of recovered cases.
(CDC, Worldometer, WHO)
Someone who tested positive for the virus is considered to have recovered if they do not have a fever, display improved respiratory symptoms, and have no symptoms for seven days from the first onset.
COVID-19 pandemic figures show that 80% of those infected recover without special medical treatment; however, about one in six people infected with the virus develop respiratory issues.
25. In 2020, COVID-19 triggered a projected 8% drop in global CO2 emissions.
This is quite a jump from the yearly 6% decline outlined in the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS).
Drawing from COVID-19 pandemic facts, one of the main advantages of COVID-19 is that it has caused the global demand for energy to fall to its lowest levels in over 70 years.
Although the drop in CO2 levels is beneficial for the global environment, it is no cause for celebration because it is only temporary healing due to a worldwide health crisis that will soon subside following the recent vaccines’ emergence.
This climatic improvement could be attributed to economies coming to a halt all over the world. As was with previous flu epidemic statistics, the CO2 emission trend will essentially reverse as economies recover.
Nonetheless, there’s hope that things will change for the better due to some structural changes in fuel use, such as coal in Europe.
26. COVID-19 is worsening gender inequality in the labor market.
Before COVID-19, the world had put in a lot of effort in closing the gender inequality gap for workers. However, the pandemic now threatens to unwind all of these gains due to its disproportionate effect on female workers.
More women are employed in the arts & entertainment, food service, and accommodations sectors than any other economic sector, as claimed in many COVID pandemic statistics.
With COVID-19 hitting these sectors particularly hard and even grounding the tourist industry, women have significantly lost their jobs more than men. It’s a similar situation for women in the health and social care sectors. There’s also the issue of unpaid care, which also affects women more than men.
27. The CDC estimates that the incubation period for COVID-19 is between 2 and 14 days.
We are yet to learn more about the incubation period of COVID-19; however, in over 97% of the cases, people infected with the virus start to exhibit symptoms after 11.5 days.
28. COVID-19 is primarily spread from person to person through droplets containing the virus in the air, data on this global pandemic reveals.
A person can also become infected by touching a contaminated surface or object and then touching their face. Recent studies have shown that the virus could remain in the air for up to three hours, while it can stay on surfaces and objects for 72 hours.
29. Pregnant women are more likely to develop respiratory illnesses due to COVID-19.
On the contrary, the risk of COVID-19 infection for pregnant women or nursing mothers is generally low.
However, once infected, pregnant women are more likely to receive intensive care, and the situation gets even worse for Black or Hispanic women.
Drawing from credible reports on COVID-19 pandemic facts, we see that pregnant women with COVID-19 are also more likely to have a premature birth.
30. A person with the novel coronavirus infects about 2.2 people on average.
(Business Insider, Visual Capitalist)
The R0 refers to the expected number of people a single infected person can, in turn, infect. Studies on major disease outbreak cases put the R0 of COVID-19 between 2 and 2.5, making this virus more contagious than the seasonal flu (1.3) but less contagious than the measles (16).
31. COVID-19 affects 71% of students psychologically.
Anyone can be excused for experiencing increased stress levels due to COVID-19. A study conducted on 195 students found most of them to be under stress, anxiety, and depression due to worrying about COVID-19.
They are often uneasy about their health and that of loved ones.
Students also faced more difficulty concentrating or sleeping. Another factor contributing to their stress is the lack of social interactions and the students worrying about their academic performances–something not evident even in yellow fever epidemic facts of history.
Some have sought help from others to deal with this, and the coping mechanisms they adopt can be positive or negative, especially in those who resort to self-management.
32. Adults over 65 and those with severe underlying comorbidities could be at higher risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19.
33. There is no conclusive information as to the origin of COVID-19.
Investigations point to the Wuhan market as the COVID-19 virus’ point of origin, but there isn’t any conclusive evidence to back it up. A variety of wild animals are sold in this market, including bats which are notorious for transmitting several pandemics in the past.
Live animal markets are typically an ideal spot for pandemics to emerge, according to top COVID pandemic statistics for 2021.
Due to these speculations, there were many political accusations and denials between the U.S and China during the Trump administration. These reportedly led to a nose-dive in relations between the two countries.
34. The FDA has cleared over 40 different coronavirus tests, COVID-19 pandemic facts show.
Nasal swab tests that detect viral RNA are the most commonly administered, but a study from China suggests that one in three of these tests might produce a false-negative result. Antibody tests — claiming to be 90% accurate — can also perform under that level in practice.
35. Over 100 million children worldwide will fall below the minimum reading proficiency level due to COVID-19.
Without an effective education recovery program, this problem can cause a generational catastrophe, according to a high-level ministerial meeting held in March 2021.
Through the Global Education Coalition, UNESCO is intensifying efforts to help countries deal with the impacts of school closures and learning loses and does so by fostering adaptive education systems and other initiatives.
Even in what was the worst pandemic in history, the world probably didn’t coordinate this closely.
The coalition comprises 160 members working towards gender equality, connectivity, and teachers.
36. At the start of April 2020, over 200 clinical trials for COVID-19 treatment or vaccines were either ongoing or recruiting patients.
From flu drugs to medicine for malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as drugs used in previous epidemics around the world, pharmaceutical companies are exploring every possible angle to find a treatment or vaccine.
37. COVID-19 puts 11 million girls at risk of not going back to school.
Pandemic statistics for 2021 show that COVID-19 has massively disrupted the education sector in many different ways. Asides from placing some girls at the risk of becoming young mothers or wives out of wedlock, it also increases their chances of being subjected to violence.
This problem is so severe that UNESCO and other concerned organizations have launched a campaign to ensure every girl returns to school safely.
More than 130 million girls were already dropouts before COVID-19, and the drive above aims to help these girls. This is an effort in the right direction as pandemic facts over the years testify to the merits of joint efforts toward recovery.
38. COVID-19 has cost the world 400 million jobs as of Q2 2020.
This figure covers only full-time formal jobs. That of informal workers is in the billions, with at least 1.6 billion people being affected, as seen in several COVID pandemic statistics for 2021.
On the other hand, COVID-19 helped expose the gender inequalities in some sectors of the economy. The G20 is now set to tackle those problems as things stabilize.
The G20 held several dialogues and focused primarily on helping the youth and women have better opportunities in the labor market and be better positioned to deal with any future disruption of the global system.
Statistics on the Prevention of Pandemics
This section presents a blend of history, present, and future. Pandemics are costing the world billions of dollars or even trillions, as in the case of COVID-19. In the following paragraphs, we’ll see what experts have to say about means of reducing pandemic figures and how effective they are/were.
39. Combating a pandemic costs 500 times more than preventing one.
The coronavirus pandemic has cost the world trillions of dollars in treatment, vaccination, lost employment and revenue, economy-boosting measures, and so on.
A recent study found that failure to protect tropical rainforests has magnified the risk of pandemics like COVID-19.
The study found that it’d cost the world between $22.2-30.7 billion yearly for this preventive measure. COVID-19, on the other hand, has been projected to draw the world back by some US$8.1-15.8 trillion, according to the most recent pandemic statistics. That’s 500 times the amount needed to diminish its risk significantly.
40. Vaccines are identified as one of the most effective ways to protect people during an influenza pandemic.
(WHO, History of Vaccines, CDC)
The problem during an influenza pandemic is that existing vaccines don’t work against a new virus strain, and developing and distributing a new vaccine can take four to six months. By this time, the disease can spread rapidly and drastically increase its death toll.
41. Experiences from influenza pandemic history show that non-pharmaceutical interventions are the most effective if applied together.
The cancellation of public meetings, quarantine and isolation, travel restrictions, contact tracing, and social distancing are all valid measures but work best when applied together, rigorously, and consistently.
42. Personal protective measures can curb the spread of an infectious disease.
A 2017 study on the effectiveness of PPMs on the spreading of influenza showed that the use of facemasks produced mixed results. However, the global pandemic prevention scenarios point to the combined use of masks and hand hygiene as having significant protective effects.
43. There’s no strong evidence that herbs or supplements can prevent the spread of COVID-19.
(Inquirer.com, Harvard University)
Even though an overactive immune system could have adverse health effects, existing evidence suggests that certain supplements and vitamins, as well as avoiding unhealthy diets, could reduce the risk or impact of viral infections.
What was the largest pandemic in history?
Believed to have killed between 75 and 200 million people worldwide, the 14th century Black Plague had the highest death rate of all pandemics in history. In fact, the number of deaths was so high it took more than 200 years for European population levels to recover.
What is the deadliest pandemic in human history?
The 1918 Spanish flu was one of the deadliest pandemics in recent history. It was a particularly virulent virus, affecting almost half a billion people between 1918 and 1919. However, one of the unique features of this pandemic, and perhaps the scariest, was the high mortality rate among healthy young people, especially those aged between 20 and 40.
What is the most recent pandemic?
The swine flu of 2009 was the most recent pandemic the world had seen. Thought to have been transmitted from pigs to humans, H1N1 first appeared in 2009, infecting around 1.4 billion people and causing the death of 151,700–575,400 across the world.
How likely is a pandemic?
Traveling, migration, and global integration, as well as urbanization, pollution, and exploitation of the natural environment, have increased the risk of pandemics over the last 100 years, with trends more likely to intensify in the future.
In fact, the number of new infectious diseases, such as SARS and HIV, has increased by almost fourfold in the past century.
Other modern-day factors that contribute to the development of pandemics include climate change (expanding the migration and range of disease-carrying animals) and the anti-vaccination movement, named by the WHO as one of the top ten global public health threats.
How many influenza pandemics have occurred in the last 100 years?
Three influenza pandemics were recorded in the 20th century, the most serious of which was the Spanish flu of 1918 — one of the diseases with the highest mortality rates in history. Two others included the so-called Asian flu, spreading from 1957 to 1958, and the 1968 Hong Kong flu. These pandemics caused between one and four million deaths each.
The Bottom Line
As the world grapples with COVID-19, it’s important to remember just how valuable lessons historical pandemic statistics and facts can teach us. Restrictive measures and methods employed in the past have proven invaluable in curbing fatality rates. At the same time, knowledge of how pandemics spread will hopefully bring us closer to possible treatment and resolution of this deadly disease holding the world hostage for more than a year now.
- Business Insider
- Business Insider
- CBS News
- Harvard University
- Harvard University
- History of Vaccines
- Live Science
- Mayo Clinic
- New York Times
- Pew Research Center
- Public Health Online
- Science Daily
- The Atlantic
- The Guardian
- The Washington Post
- The Washington Post
- UN News
- Verywell Health
- Visual Capitalist
- Washington Post