6 of History’s Most Terrifying and Deadly Viruses

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I never spent much time thinking about viruses or how we’re all going to die until about 5 or 6 years ago, when I read The Hot Zone. Before that, I had a fleeting fascination with pandemic stories, but nothing stuck. However, The Hot Zone did stick. A lot. And thus began a borderline obsession that I harbor until this day.

Of course, having educated myself, I no longer think Ebola is the way we’re all going to die. It’s definitely going to be a mutated flu. Or that’s my guess. Don’t quote me on that.

If you, like me, can’t get enough of this topic, here’s a list of some of the most terrifying viruses to ever come in contact with human beings (and infect them).

6. Dengue


This mosquito-born virus is still the leading cause of death in the tropics and subtropics. It causes a high fever, severe headache, and in severe cases, hemorrhaging.

It’s not contagious and it’s treatable, though there is no vaccine. The fact that it’s transferred through mosquito bite puts about 3 billion people at risk – 400 million of whom, according to the CDC, contract it every year.

Use bug spray!

5. Ebola


Ah, the virus with symptoms that will scare the crap out of you – and if you get it, other stuff will be rolling out of you, as well. Mostly your blood. Out of every orifice.

There are five known strands of Ebola, four of while cause the disease in humans that has killed thousands of people in Africa since it was discovered in 1976.

The CDC classifies Ebola at Biosafety Level 4, making it one of the most dangerous pathogens on the planet, and with an average mortality rate of around 50% (some strains are higher), you definitely don’t want to catch it.

The first symptoms are a headache and sore throat that progresses to major internal bleeding and multiple organ failure.

There is currently no known cure.

4. Influenza


You might think you know about the flu and we’re all going to be fine, but listen – there are so many strains of flu, and so many ways it’s currently mutating, that pegging this as the next worldwide epidemic is almost a no-brainer.

The Spanish flu, which we know now was H1N1, wiped out 50 million people around the world in the span of just two years. The most recent H1N1 epidemic, in 2009, caused up to 400,000 deaths worldwide.

Flu vaccines exist, and the majority of people survive infections from the current mutations. It is, however, highly infectious and airborne, which means the right (wrong) strain, the right (wrong) mutation, and it will be 1918 all over again.

3. Marburg


A group of lab monkeys in Frankfurt, Germany, passed a new hemorrhagic fever to a group of lab workers in 1967. It came to be known as Marburg, and it has an up to 90% fatality rate.

Safe to say that it’s also classified as a Biosafety Level 4. It’s spread through close contact, begins with a headache, fever, and rash before killing you the same way Ebola does – internal bleeding and organ failure. There is no cure, and we haven’t seen any confirmed cases since 2014.

Rest assured that it’s still out there, though.

2. Rabies


Rabies is straight up terrifying, and there’s no way to cure it once neurological symptoms set in. Records of the disease date back to 2300 BCE, with Babylonians recording how people went mad and died after being bitten by dogs.

We do have a vaccine, but it must be administered immediately. If left untreated, rabies attacks the central nervous system with symptoms like delirium, hallucinations, raging, and violent behavior that almost always end in death.

Basically, this is how we get zombies. If it ever becomes airborne, get ready.

1. Hantavirus


Hantavirus is already airborne, and different strains are carried by rodents. It’s known to cause different types of illness in people, most commonly hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome and hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.

Its mortality rate is a paltry 1%-15% (sarcasm), but in the case of pulmonary symptoms, that can rise to around 38%.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m off to wash my hands again.

I’m wishing you plenty warm water, soap, and hand sanitizer now and in the future!