Disease outbreaks may be inevitable, but large-scale pandemics are not. The world can respond swiftly and effectively to pandemic risks in the future with better understanding, resources, and effort.

To avoid suffering through another large pandemic, we have to take the risk of pandemics seriously. Despite warnings that another one was likely, the COVID-19 pandemic killed more than 27 million people.1

We must build the capacity to test for pathogens and understand them: which pathogens put us at the greatest risk, how they spread, and how to tackle them.

We know it is possible to greatly reduce the risk of infectious disease. We’ve learned over history how to reduce their impact with vaccines, public health efforts, and medicine.

In addition to the old risks, we face new threats from factory farming, genetic modification, climate change, and antimicrobial resistance. With more attention and effort, we can reduce their risks too.

On this page, we show data and research on pandemics in history and how we can reduce their risk in the future.

Research & Writing

Interactive Charts on Pandemics


  1. This comes from the central estimate of excess mortality published by The Economist by the time of publication, December 2023.

    Solstad S. The pandemic’s true death toll. Economist 2021;20. (10 October 2022, date last accessed). See also:

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Saloni Dattani, Lucas Rodés-Guirao, Edouard Mathieu, Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser (2023) - “Pandemics” Published online at Retrieved from: '' [Online Resource]

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    author = {Saloni Dattani and Lucas Rodés-Guirao and Edouard Mathieu and Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser},
    title = {Pandemics},
    journal = {Our World in Data},
    year = {2023},
    note = {}
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