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1918 to 2020: Why the Spanish flu matters right now

A virus burned through the world population a century ago but was it enough for humanity to learn its lessons?

Throughout the world history, different plagues and pandemics have caused devastation around the globe. Some of which killed even up to 200 million people, this was known as Black Death and that was in the 14th century. The unprecedented chaos didn’t stop there; waves after waves of pandemics have been rattling the human health principles and models of health around the world. In the last century, the biggest impact was caused by the Spanish flu; a virus that left behind millions dead and hundreds of millions bereaved. History is the best teacher, if one wants to learn from it. According to health experts and public health gurus, the world was long overdue a pandemic which came in the form of corona virus aka COVID-19.

Current Dilemma

There are many reasons due to which Spanish flu matters right now. The thing about pandemics is that they all follow the same pattern of ruthlessness, devastation, and rapid spread. If we had implemented properly the lessons learned from Spanish flu we might not have been standing where we are today with this pandemic.

Identifying Distribution patterns

The identification of distribution patterns is something that can help one stay ahead of the pending doom. The causative organism behind the Spanish flu was the H1N1.  The roots of the spread of virus couldn’t be traced exactly but it spread like wild fires throughout the world which ultimately resulted in even loss around the World. There were no concepts of implementing strict hand hygiene back then because there was a dearth of tools that could help understand the nature of virus and mode of transmission.

Limited Resources

Most of the steps that were taken by governments were limited to non-pharmacological interventions such as maintenance of personal care and hygiene, shutting down of crowded places, limiting social interactions, and use of disinfectants. However, this was not enough.

First of the many cases in the United States of America was reported in a military personnel in the spring of 1918. Since then, everything went downhill. The cataclysmic nature of the virus brought the whole world down on knees and most of all, the intensity of spread made everyone vulnerable.

It was important to know that one of the complications of this virus was super infection in the form of pneumonia; sadly it wasn’t identified at that time. There was no breakthrough as in terms of modern science and virus ran it course, quiet brutally. It resulted in approximately 50 million deaths worldwide and 675000 deaths in the Unites states alone.

Still a secret

Later on, the virus was isolated and successfully synthesized for better understanding of the disease and in hope to prepare better for the future pandemics. However, despite continuous efforts to uncover the reason behind lethal nature of the virus, it all ended in vain.

The virus resulted in higher mortality in young and healthy individuals. The average age was found to be 28 years. In some cases, it ripped through the infected person’s immune system in a single day. It was contagious; everybody knew but why was it so dangerous for young and healthy individuals? This remains unknown.

Is it enough?

Vaccines were made for prior protection against such viruses and antibiotics were discovered to fight the bacterial infections. However, today a new virus challenges us, a new threat has emerged and a new fact has dawned on us, that we weren’t still ready. Today governments around the world have asked people to wash hands with bar soap and water for 20 seconds, but is it enough? To be honest who discusses a pandemic when making government policies? Who proposes a better way to manage the debilitated economic institutions in case things go south? No one!

What to do?

Today, in order to make right decisions we should reflect upon the decisions of the past so better choices are made and same mistakes are not repeated. This is why Spanish flu matters right now. Washing hands with soap and water or an antibacterial hand wash is now our responsibility along with wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.

 To combat the situation owing to impact of COVID-19, we must follow all the precautions as instructed by governments and health institutions; else we might end up facing the same death toll as in Spanish flu. With all the medical advancements and technological expertise on our side, it shouldn’t be too hard to control the spreading fire but compliance of general population is necessary and required.

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