Is Coronavirus Part of a Viral Outbreak that Occurs Every 100 years?

Claims purporting that the COVID-19 pandemic fits a pattern of viral outbreaks that occur every 100 years have been shared since the outbreak of the virus in 2019.

Videos showing timelines to support this claim have been posted severally on YouTube.


This article by The News dated March 16, 2020 also supports the claim with the headline “In 1720 plague, 1820 cholera outbreak, 1920 Spanish Flu, 2020 Chinese coronavirus — What is happening”.

Similar sentiments have been shared on Twitter. See posts here, here and here.


COVID-19 was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late December 2019. The virus has killed more than 6,000 people and infected 163,930 worldwide. Over the years, the world has experienced similar/worse pandemics.

The claim in question is supported using the 1720 Great Plague of Marseille, 1820 Cholera outbreak and the 1920 Spanish Flu outbreak, all of which allegedly occurred 100 years apart, therefore forming a pattern.


The 1720 Great Plague of Marseille was the last of the most significant European outbreaks of Bubonic plague following episodes that began in the early 14th century with the 1331 Black Death pandemic. While the timeline given is correct, the causative agent is a bacterium and not a virus.

Historically, there have been 6 Cholera Pandemics between 1817 and 1923. Other endemic cases continue to be reported to-date. Mentioning only one year between these outbreaks and leaving out the rest is misguided. Cholera is also a bacterial disease and not a viral one as claimed.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, the H1N1 flu viral pandemic, sometimes referred to as the “Spanish flu” occurred in 1918 lasting through 1920. The latter year, however, is not when the outbreak was first registered, as is being alluded to in the claims making the rounds.

This visual history of pandemics by The World Economic Forum outlines 20 major outbreaks that occurred over the years since the Antonine Plague between the years 165-180 (AD) to the present COVID-19. Others include the Italian Plague, Yellow Fever, HIV/AIDS and Ebola. They do not fit into any pattern whatsoever.


One of the outbreaks used to support this claim is inaccurately dated and the other two are falsely characterized in terms of the causative agents. The claim that COVID-19 is part of a viral outbreak that occurs every 100 years is, therefore, FALSE.

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