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10 Worst Epidemics

Infectious diseases have inflicted a great deal of damage throughout the centuries, decimating entire populations. Here are some of the worst mankind has ever seen.

Published On 09/18/2013
7:26 AM EDT
This engraving depicts Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez's Aug. 13, 1521 capture of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan. The weapon that ensured his victory wasn't modern firepower, but smallpox the conquistadors inadvertently introduced to the continent. | Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Nurses care for victims of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic outdoors amidst canvas tents in Massachusetts. | Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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A mother waits and child wait for a check-up at a free tuberculosis hospital on the outskirts of Kolkata, India. TB is a major public health problem in India, which accounts for one-fifth of the global TB incident cases. | Deshakalyan Chowdhury/Associated Foreign Press/Getty Images
A father cradles his sick child during the cholera outbreak in 1994 that claimed thousands of lives in Goma, Zaire, after one million people fled fighting in Rwanda. | Tom Stoddart/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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Illustration of a mob attacking the Quarantine Marine Hospital in New York in 1858 because they believed that its use was responsible for numerous yellow fever epidemics. | Getty Images
A British soldier sprays a recently liberated prisoner from the squalid conditions in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in order to combat epidemic typhus in 1945. | George Rodger/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
A 1956 operative in the Glaxo Laboratories mixes three distinct strains of killed poliovirus to prepare the final vaccine. | Keystone/Getty Images