For hundreds of years, measles has been one of the most feared diseases around. It is assumed that the virus emerged some time between 500 AD and 1000 AD. For many centuries, measles has been a very potent killer. Especially in the “New World” (the American continent) where people were not yet used to the virus, it had a very high death rate. In 1529, it killed 66% of people who had previously survived smallpox. Later on much of Mexico and central America was ravaged by the disease. Hawaii was hit by a measles epidemic in the 1850s and lost around a fifth of its population to the disease.
Nowadays, for most people in industrialized nations, measles is just an illness like many other. Rarely killing any otherwise healthy individuals who have access to modern medicine, it is still present in many regions of the World. Nevertheless, in the last 200 years few illnesses have been more deadly. In the last 150 years alone, measles has killed around 200 million people. The vaccine, which was finally discovered in 1963 and from then on, measles deadliest days were over.
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