I don’t remember a worldwide epidemic (or global epidemic panic) like this in my lifetime. I heard of MERS and SARS but don’t remember there being a worldwide shut-down of things like is going on with COVID-19.
I tried to find some comparison info, and this article is informative.
In simple numbers, SARS began in 2002 and there have been no more cases since 2004. There were 8,098 reported cases and 774 deaths.
MERS began in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Since then there have been 2,494 reported cases and 858 deaths.
While COVID-19 appears to have a much lower mortality rate than SARS or MERS, it’s hard to know for sure because it’s still spreading. So far the mortality rate is 3.4%.
It’s also more widespread. So far it’s in 60 countries, has infected more than 99,000 people and there have been more than 3,300 fatalities.
So I guess this might be the largest worldwide epidemic in my lifetime.