Pandemic offers a history lesson

Rebekah Harrell
Staff Writer

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have been comparing it to the influenza pandemic of 1918. A little research reveals that some problems the world experienced during the two pandemics are very similar although treatments and technology have advanced to lessen some of the impact of COVID-19. 

The influenza pandemic of 1918 also known as the “Spanish Flu” changed the way many people went about their daily lives. There were three waves of the Spanish flu one each in the spring, fall and winter of 1918.

In the book “The Spanish Flu,” published by Random House it says, “The ‘Spanish flu,’ as it was nicknamed in 1918, killed a large number of people more rapidly than the deadliest war, not because it was lethal to the individual sufferer as a bullet or bomb, but because it spread rapidly and affected millions of people.”

As of April 24, 2020 there are over 2.7 million people in the world infected with this disease. Obviously, during the 1918 pandemic information and warnings were not as immediate. This resulted in over 500 million people infected. At this time it would have been about one-third of the world’s population. The concurrent event of World War I contributed as high concentrations of military personnel and their movements helped spread the disease.

The number of cases for the 1918 influenza grew over three waves. The COVID-19 virus has only had one wave so far, but experts predict there could be more waves in the coming months.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a frequent speaker at President Trump’s press conferences, said in an interview on CNN, “There is always the possibility as we get into next fall, and the beginning of early winter, that we could see a rebound.”

Another similarity was in the precautions that were taken to protect the general population. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has ordered all schools in Oregon to be closed until the end of the 2019-2020 school year. Also non-essential businesses are closed. 

All of this happened during the “Spanish Flu” pandemic too. Schools closed, non-essential workers stayed home, and even the Red Cross was recruiting people to become nurses.

According to an article on the History channel website, “Officials in some communities imposed quarantines, ordered citizens to wear masks and shut down public places, including schools, churches and theaters. People were advised to avoid shaking hands and to stay indoors, libraries put a halt on lending books.”

Another difference is in the treatment and most likely, the end of the pandemic. In 1918, there were no effective medical treatments and flu vaccines wouldn’t be common for another 25 years. The “Spanish Flu” essentially passed in the summer of 1919 as victims died and the public developed herd immunity.

Modern technology has also made it easier for the general public to deal with the current situation. Some people are reconnecting with family and learning new hobbies to keep themselves busy. Others are trying to use this time to be effective and organize their time and life.

“I’ve looked at this extended break as a way to spend more time with my family and reconnect with my lost hobbies,” sophomore, Emma Hall said.

In the end, the “Spanish Flu” pandemic has offered some helpful historical lessons for us while we deal with  COVID-19.

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