Thursday, April 16, 2020

1918 Flu Pandemic / The Spanish Flu. History of one of the world's greatest death events


1918 Flu Pandemic / The Spanish Flu

History often comes close to repeating itself. The current COVID-19 Pandemic is no exception .  As we all struggle with the new world of "Novel Coronavirus"  and how to deal with the disease it causes - COVID-19, a little history is in order.

The following is adapted from Wikipedia's "Spanish Flu" article here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_flu

For more authoritative details about COVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2 / Coronavirus consider these sites:
coronavirus disease 2019  Wikipedia
World Health Organization:  https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019


The Spanish Flu (misnamed as it had no special relationship to Spain, though origins of the disease are unclear)  lasted from January 1918 to December 1920.

The flu pandemic spread around the world, infecting some 500 million people and killing as many as 50-100 million.  Mortality among young adults was especially severe - a significant contrast with the current COVID-19 pandemic. 
The H1N1 influenza virus was the culprit.

The Spanish Flu pandemic was possibly the deadliest event in all of human history, possibly surpassing all wars in terms of the final death toll, though war deaths are typically better reported than during the Spanish Flu Pandemic.





Several Pacific island territories were hit particularly hard as New Zealand travelers visited. 8% of Tonga, 16% of Nauru, and 5% of Fiji's population died  in the pandemic.  Worst hit was Western Samoa with a 90% infection rate, though American Samoa was spared thanks to an early blockade. 
The Spanish flu had a very deadly "second wave" where thousands more died in late 1918, but by 1919 the virus had largely disappeared.   Researchers do not fully understand the rapid demise of what had been one of the deadliest of all human diseases, though some speculate that treatments for pneumonia improved dramatically, others that the virus mutated to a less deadly form.



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