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Similarities – Flu Pandemic of 1918 and Corona Virus of 2020

WW1 Battlefield ToursThe 1918 Influenza pandemic was classed as the most severe pandemic in recent history until perhaps now with the outbreak of the corona virus which is currently ravaging the world. The flu pandemic was caused by the H1N1 virus which was avian in its origin but was later classed as ‘Swine Flu’. Unlike the corona virus, there was no real consensus as to where it originated from but it was first identified in military personnel during the spring of 1918 and went on to spread worldwide over an eighteen month period across 1918-19.

It acquired the name ‘Spanish Flu’ or ‘Spanish Lady’. This was because it was thought to have originated in Spain but this is a misconception. Spain was one of the few major European countries to remain neutral in World War One which allowed the Spanish media free to report everything in great detail unlike the Allied and Central Powers who were working under wartime censorship and therefore suppressed news of the flu pandemic. This media blackout meant that nations could only read reports emanating from the Spanish press and so believed that this was the centre of the outbreak.

WW1 Battlefield ToursThe Spanish thought it had originated in France, which was quite possible, and so called it ‘French Flu’. The fact is no one knew where it came from and France, Britain, China and America have all been suggested. What is known and recorded is that the first case was recorded on March 11th 1918 at a military base in Kansas.

The flu pandemic infected one third of the world’s population (500 million). Its effects were devastating on the world’s economy particularly as the world was coming out of the largest conflict ever experienced; World War One.

WW1 Battlefield Tours

Deaths were estimated at 50 million and of these 675,000 occurred in the United States of America.

The corona virus or Coved-19 has a higher mortality rate among the elderly and those with underlying health issues although this appears to be changing. The flu pandemic was different as it inflicted a high mortality rate among healthy people in the age group of 20-40 years which was a unique feature. In fact the flu pandemic was quite indiscriminate being particularly virulent among infants up to the age of 5 years and those aged over 65.

As with the current virus, no one was safe from it. Today our Prime Minister and future king have been infected with Coved-19. In 1918 Alfonso XIII the King of Spain was infected and a year later in early 1919 the American President, Woodrow Wilson, contracted the virus while negotiating the Treaty of Versailles.

WW1 Battlefield Tours

As with the current corona virus there was no vaccine and no antibiotics to treat any secondary bacterial infections. Like now, isolation, quarantine and good personal hygiene as well as the use of disinfectants were the only way to fight the pandemic.

We are probably just at the start of this current pandemic.

WW1 Battlefield Tours

Hopefully a vaccine will be found and this will bring this nightmare to an end or it may take the same route as the ‘Spanish Flu’ which came to an end by the summer of 1919 when those who had been infected had either died or developed herd immunity that the government sources have mentioned.

It is worth understanding that it took researchers almost 90 years to discover what made this strain of flu so deadly. Apparently a group of genes enabled the virus to weaken a victim’s bronchial tubes and lungs which cleared the way for bacterial pneumonia to kick in. Let’s hope that our scientists today have a better understanding of this current plague.

WW1 Battlefield ToursPeople have commented that this could be a manmade virus that has leaked out. I personally think not. But the statement that it is manmade could be true. In 1918 the world was coming out of a global disaster with World War One. We had killed each other without remorse and trashed the planet that we live on. Perhaps then, as now, man upset Mother Nature and like then she thought it time to press the reset button.

Stay safe everyone.

Lest we forget.