We humans have been at war with viruses for as long as we have existed. Our caveman ancestors confronted these unseen enemies with myths and superstitions. We face them boldly with microscopes and face masks thanks to the rapid advancements in science and medicine in the past century.
Some of these pathogens have been so brutal, leading to countless deaths, almost threatening to wipe us off the face of the Earth. For the most part, we have managed to keep viruses under control or even eradicate them by developing timely vaccines. Here are the 10 deadliest viruses the world has seen so far.
Unlike other viruses the HIV (Human Immuno-deficiency Virus) attacks and destroys the T-cells, an essential component of the immune system. With time, the body is rid of its natural defense and this opens the door for all other opportunistic infections; a full-blown condition known as Acquired Immuno-deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). This is what makes it particularly deadly.
The HIV can be traced back to non-human primates, these are certain species of chimpanzees and gorillas in Central and West Africa in the 1920s. Early strains of the virus were likely acquired from bush meat practices. The wounds and cuts of the hunters were drenched in the fresh infected blood of their kill and therefore transmission was made possible. Later, HIV mainly spread from humans to humans through the exchange of sexual fluids during unprotected sex, blood transfusion and sharing of syringe needles during drug use.
In the 1980s the Center for Disease Control detected the first cases of HIV among homosexual men living in Los Angeles, in the United States. In 1981 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a pandemic and by 1997, there were over 3 million new infections per year. Since then, 75 million people have been infected worldwide and 32 million have died as a result. As of today, about 37.9 million people are living with HIV and surviving on anti-retroviral drugs.