We live in a modern world full of reasonably advanced medical technology and disease treatment. So, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’re more likely to be killed machines rebelling against the human race than a disease like the bubonic plague or syphilis.

You might be be surprised to learn that many of these ancient diseases, which were on the brink of extinction just a few years ago, are back with a vengeance in parts of the world.

1.) Whooping Cough.


Whooping cough (pertussis) is one of the deadliest and most tragic diseases on this list. It was considered nearly eradicated in the developed world not many years ago. However, due to parents not vaccinating their children, outbreaks of whooping cough have been reported across the United States, Europe, and Australia.

It can lead to stopped breathing in 67% of infants, and loss of bladder control in 28% of adults. It really isn’t very nice, and kills a little more than 1% of infants who get it.

2.) Flu.


Influenza always appears to ruin your fall and winter, probably because our immune systems get worn down by the winter weather (lack of sun, fewer fruits and vegetables). Despite improvements in medical technology and disease forecasting, the flu still manages to kill up around 56,000 people every year in the United States alone. Your best bet for avoiding the same fate is to get a flu shot, but even those aren’t foolproof.

3.) Bubonic Plague (Black Death).

That’s right, the bubonic plague is back (although, technically it never really left). The African country of Madagascar has been working this year to contain and eliminate an outbreak of the plague within its borders. However, progress has been slow. An estimated 47 people have been killed by the disease, and there have been at least 138 suspected cases since the start of 2014.

4.) Measles.

Measles is another disease making a comeback because of lower vaccination rates in the developed world. The CDC declared Measles eliminated in the United States back in 2000. However, across the country in 2014, there have been major outbreaks of measles. Normally, it’s an extremely unpleasant disease that’s survivable, but 3 out of every 1,000 cases can be deadly.

Despite the claims of some, an effectiveness of 70-90% means that 10-30% will still be able to get sick even if vaccinated: this is expected. This in no way disproves vaccine effectiveness, but further reinforces existing statistics.

If you think that MMR vaccines are especially dangerous, please read this text discussing actual risks and benefits.

5.) Mumps.

Typically, a child will receive a vaccine for mumps and measles at the same time. But because of the lower vaccination rates in the developed world, this disease is spreading again. In the United States in particular, areas of the country this year were scrambling to respond to the reappearance of a disease that most thought was gone for good.

6.) Chicken Pox.

Back in 2012, one county in Indiana experienced an outbreak of chicken pox that was thought to have come from a single unvaccinated child. In this case, even those who had been previously vaccinated were infected with the disease. We can all remember how unpleasant it is to have chicken pox, although it really isn’t deadly: you can still die if you have a compromised immune system.

7.) Scarlet Fever.

Anyone who’s ever watched Little House On The Prairie is familiar with scarlet fever. Through the modern era, scarlet fever was treated with penicillin and mostly eliminated from the developed world. In recent years, new and more deadly strains of the disease have popped up all over China. There was also a reported outbreak of scarlet fever in Michigan in 2011.

8.) Polio.

Polio used to be the worst scourge of childhood diseases in this country. Luckily, vaccines eliminated the deadly disease from American life. During the last decade, countries of Afghanistan, Nigeria, India, and Pakistan have all seen an increase in the number of polio cases being diagnosed. In some cases, the refusal of locals to allow doctors to vaccinate children has led to the disease crossing borders. It can be transmitted orally and through fecal matter.

9.) Tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis is an old world disease that you should be glad you don’t have. It was brutal and frequently deadly, and remains highly contagious and deadly for some. While tuberculosis is not a huge concern these days, drug resistant tuberculosis is. Strains of tuberculosis that are drug resistant essentially means that the traditional antibiotic drugs used to treat the disease no longer work.

Not all cases of drug resistant Tuberculosis are deadly, but they are dangerous because the disease can still be spread to others in some circumstances.

10.) Syphilis.

Some call this the disease as old as creation. Syphilis was the most widespread sexually transmitted disease in the world for quite a long time. However, education campaigns and breakthroughs with a penicillin and other antibiotic treatments lowered the rates of transmission and infection. In recent years, though, the number of syphilis cases have increased, especially drug-resistant strains of the STI.

The reappearance and spread of diseases we once though to be  under control is the unfortunate result of low vaccination rates. When parents choose not to vaccinate their children against diseases we know are dangerous and contagious…they can become much more easily infected.