With modern medicine, one would think that the threat of plague would not be a serious concern among the human population. These days, many diseases are completely preventable thanks to vaccines. Diseases like whooping cough, smallpox, and polio have been nearly completely eradicated. Despite advances in medicine, many apocalyptic texts focus on disease as the cause for the decimation of the human race.
Despite vaccines and other advances in medicine, many people believe that disease is what will bring down the human race. This can be seen in many apocalyptic texts such as the novel, I am Legend or the film 12 Monkeys. In those texts, disease quickly spreads throughout the human population until only a small number of survivors remain. In addition to this, the in the Christian apocalypse, one of the signs that the end is near is the four horsemen, one of whom is commonly known in popular culture as pestilence. He is portrayed that way in the popular television program Supernatural.
Vaccines started being developed as early as the late 1700s, and since then they have given humans the ability to prevent many diseases. These days, many people are refusing to accept vaccines for various reasons. These include religious reasons, a belief in the connection between vaccines and autism, fear of ingredients in vaccines, or fear of complications of vaccines. Due to this decline in vaccinations for common diseases, there have been outbreaks of completely preventable illnesses such as the mumps or whooping cough. While these types of diseases do not threaten humans as a whole, they do reveal a flaw in society that could allow a more serious disease to easily spread.
Another threat is the fact that diseases change over time. If a disease changes too quickly, it can be extremely difficult to get a vaccine to the public in time to stop the spread of that disease. In addition to this, there are many regulations in place regarding testing of vaccines before they are allowed to be put on the market. A very fast spreading disease could infect and kill many people before any vaccine is made available.
Many people fear that plague will end civilization due to the fact that plague can be used as a biological weapon. While common sense says the risk of this type of warfare outweighs the reward, it is not unreasonable to believe that a disaster could result from its use. According to World Health Organization, if biological warfare were to occur in the near future, anthrax, botulism, plague, smallpox, and tularaemia would probably be used. Although it is said that these agents would be used because they are easy to control, with things like cars and planes allowing for fast travel, it is easy to imagine biological warfare quickly getting out of control.
Because of these reasons, it is easy to imagine disease as the cause of human extinction. This fascinating realism makes disease caused apocalypse stories a popular choice for books, television, movies, videogames and more. The fact that it could start at any time makes it a fascinating idea to ponder.