In a world plagued by human civilization, it’s good to know nature can still take an effective stand with pestilence, disease and zombie-like afflictions. Like an unfit organ-transplant recipient, these are some of the most efficient ways nature has occasionally purged itself of us little meat sacks.

In a world plagued by human civilization, it’s good to know nature can still take an effective stand with pestilence, disease and zombie-like afflictions. Like an unfit organ-transplant recipient, these are some of the most efficient ways nature has occasionally purged itself of us little meat sacks.

>>The Plague of Athens
430 BCE – 426 BCE

Historians don’t even know the exact cause of this plague. It had similarities to ebola, viral hemorrhagic fevers and typhoid, but the most likely candidates for the outbreak are typhus, the plague (bubonic), arboviruses (yellow fever, dengue fever, etc.) and perhaps smallpox, which doesn’t narrow it down at all. What experts don’t know, fellow historian and Athenian general, Thucydides, saw firsthand in the effects of the plague, as a victim and a survivor. He described sufferers of the disease as having fevers, rashes, vomiting of bile and spasms followed by sensations of being internally consumed by fire. Victims who survived the first stages got to look forward to projectile diarrhea and sweet death. Even some of those who survived had the plague set into their fingertips, toes and “privy parts,” proving there most definitely is a fate worse than death.

>>Black Death
Early 1300s – 1600
It’s not the groundbreaking, first all-African-American heavy metal band from the 1970s that you’re thinking of, but nice thought. It’s actually the bubonic plague, not to be confused with Bubonic Plague, the contemporary death metal band from the Netherlands. The gruesome disease showed up one October day in 1347 when a bunch of trading ships that had sailed through the Black Sea docked at an Italian port. On board was a Hollywood-worthy nightmare of mostly dead and dying sailors with black boils that secreted blood and pus, hence the name, “black death.” The ships were quarantined to sea, but it was too late, and within the next five years, the disease had spread across Europe, killing 20 million people or nearly one-third of the continent’s population. Unfortunately, the lasting effects were not devastating enough to prevent the world from being subjected to Oasis.

>>Dancing Plague
One of the strangest epidemics ever recorded occurred in Strasbourg, Alsace (at the time part of the Roman Empire) in 1518 when a single woman went into the street and began to dance for days. She was soon accompanied by about 100 people, who were also afflicted by the compulsion to dance day and night without stopping. At the time, the sickness was attributed to a natural disease that was the result of a condition called “hot blood,” and the prescribed treatment was more dancing, so the leaders of Strasbourg ordered musicians to accompany the dancers with song to assist in curing them, which obviously did not help. By the peak of the epidemic in August of 1518, it had accumulated more than 400 victims who continued to rave in a trance-like state until some of those who had not died of sheer exhaustion, stroke or Ecstasy-like induced hyperthermia were eventually taken to shrines for healing. Others simply woke up dehydrated, feeling slightly faint and a little guilty for sex partners from the night before.

>>Siege of Fort Pitt

Eurasian diseases introduced into the native populations of the Americas by early colonists have long been cited as the primary cause of the indigenous peoples’ mass extinction. Well, nature had a little help in 1763 from the British Army, which suddenly found a renewed enemy in the eastern American natives. In 1763, tribes including the Delaware and the Shawnee rebelled against alliances and attacked Fort Pitt when it became evident the British were not going to honor the treaty they had signed with them, guaranteeing the vacating of the Ohio areas after the war’s end. During the doomed attack, the British met with representatives of the Delawares and gave them blankets and a handkerchief infected with smallpox in one of the first acts of chemical warfare ever recorded. The rebellion failed, smallpox prevailed, and now you can only see the remainder of Native Americans on RG III’s helmet on Sundays … for now.

>>Sleeping Sickness
1896 – 1990s
This terrifying illness is caused most often by the trypanosoma brucei gambiense virus and is transmitted via the cutely named tsetse fly in 36 sub-Saharan African countries. Both people and animals infected by the fly’s bite can communicate the disease, and it’s been responsible for at least three epidemics from 1896 to 1906, in 1920 and from 1970 to the 1990s. Victims suffered from symptoms including headaches, fever and joint pains before succumbing to poor coordination, confusion and eventual bouts of zombie sleep from which your relatives think you will never awake. So, if you came down with this in the 1970s, you could say goodbye to the KISS posters that used to hang on your bedroom wall.

>>Spanish Flu
1918 – 1919
It was 1918 and World War I was winding down, Woodrow Wilson had just given his Fourteen Points address, and troops returning from the warfront were bringing a potential mass-extinction event home with them. Although American civilian exposure to the flu had been limited to that of port crews dealing with ship cargo from overseas, returning soldiers were bringing the influenza strain home from Europe where it had already killed millions. The incredibly contagious influenza virus was responsible for approximately half of all American WWI military fatalities. It infected 500 million people (or more than 30 percent of the world’s population at the time), had a 10 percent fatality rate or greater, and killed 20 to 50 million people worldwide, proving it was the ultimate victor of the Great War.

>>Radiation Sickness
The 21st Century and Beyond!
Although it can’t be transmitted from one person to another in a classroom like whooping cough or anal warts, it’s one of the only epidemics that is a byproduct of an even larger-scale human catastrophe created by humans. During the early 20th century, people were becoming absolute badasses at destroying each other with systematic ease. Testing nuclear prototypes and the subsequent fallout after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II produced a cornucopia of diseases from radiation exposure. Of the 135,000 people who died in Hiroshima only 60,000 to 80,000 died from the initial detonation. The majority of those who didn’t perish from the subsequent fires died from acute radiation sickness, which involved a few pleasant days of vomiting, diarrhea, fever and maybe some bloody stools, then death. The few who were affected but not killed were subject to all of the wonderful variations of cancer that an atomic bomb can offer and found a macabre place in the history books.

>>Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome
2002 – 2003
After baffling world scientists for months, a relatively rare virus, the tasty sounding Coronavirus, turned out to be the cause of the disease that shut down international borders, caused mass hysteria and infected more than 8,000 people in 37 countries in only a few weeks. It originally was overlooked because it was a disease that had previously only affected animals. However, once inside of a susceptible human host, it mutated and spread from its Chinese origin to most of the rest of the world. Transmitted like the common cold, the epidemic, which has no known cure, killed nearly 800 people with a one in 10 mortality rate. It marked the first time the World Health Organization enacted its newly designed war plan for epidemics, and the plan worked … ish. By calling in the efforts of the world’s most elite laboratories, WHO was able to genetically map the makeup of the virus in record time. However, it rendered no cure or vaccine, giving sufferers the sad shoulder shrug of, “Whatta ya gonna do?”

1976 – Present
Our current ebola situation began in two separate outbreaks in the popular tourist destinations of Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo when a school headmaster touring an area along the Ebola River fell ill and died within weeks. Subsequent outbreaks in Africa were traced back to fruit bats that more than likely shat all over some marketplace food that ended up in some poor dude’s mouth. It soon found its way to the rest of the world in several separate outbreaks, the latest of which is occurring at this very moment in the largest ebola epidemic recorded. With no cure or vaccine and a fatality rate possibly as high as 90 percent, the disease is paralyzing countries including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria (always a nice place) and Guinea where the virus is flourishing. The 2014 epidemic alone has infected more than 10,141 people and killed more than 4,922.

1940s – Present
It’s a global pandemic, and after more than half of a century, it still scares the shit out of every sexually active human on earth. At least it should. Once a harmless virus only infecting West African chimps who refused to practice safe jungle sex, it made that spectacular leap across species via some unlucky indigenous hunters somewhere in the middle of the 20th century. Like so many other horrific diseases, the mutation created a virus that humans had never seen, and with it, the wild fear and stigma that comes with that which is misunderstood. Since 1990, the number of those living with HIV has risen from 8 million to 35.3 million world-wide, according to the CDC, and though there exist life-prolonging antiviral medications, the death toll since the start of the epidemic has reached 30 million people worldwide.