102 years ago, the last great pandemic was the Spanish Flu. It killed a quarter of the world’s population.
No one is sure where the flu was originated, most assume it was Spain. It could have originated in China, Britain, France or the United States. The first known case was reported at Camp Funston in Kansas in March of 1918.
Some believe infected soldiers spread the disease to other military camps across the country, then brought it overseas. In March 1918, 84,000 American soldiers headed across the Atlantic and were followed by 118,000 more the following month.
COVID-19 appeared in Wuhan, a city in China, in December 2019. Although health officials are still tracing the exact source of this new coronavirus, early hypotheses thought it may be linked to a seafood market in Wuhan, China. Some people who visited the market developed viral pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus. A study that came out on Jan. 25, 2020, notes that the individual with the first reported case became ill on Dec. 1, 2019, and had no link to the seafood market. Investigations are ongoing as to how this virus originated and spread.
What is Covid 19?
Coronaviruses are a type of virus. There are many different kinds, and some cause disease. A newly identified type has caused a recent outbreak of respiratory illness now called COVID-19.
Coronaviruses were first discovered in the 1930s when an acute respiratory infection of domesticated chickens was shown to be caused by infectious bronchitis virus (IBV). In the 1940s, two more animal coronaviruses, mouse hepatitis virus (MHV) and transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV), were isolated.
Human coronaviruses were discovered in the 1960s. The earliest ones studied were from human patients with the common cold, which were later named human coronavirus 229E and human coronavirus OC43. Other human coronaviruses have since been identified, including SARS-CoV in 2003, HCoV NL63 in 2004, HKU1 in 2005, MERS-CoV in 2012, and SARS-CoV-2 in 2019. Most of these have involved serious respiratory tract infections.
Symptoms of the Spanish Flu
The first wave of the 1918 pandemic occurred in the spring and was generally mild. The sick, who experienced such typical flu symptoms as chills, fever and fatigue, usually recovered after several days, and the number of reported deaths was low.
COVID-19 symptoms include: Cough, fever, Shortness of Breath, Muscle Aches, Sore throat, Unexplained lost of taste or smell, diarrhea, and headache. COVID-19 can lead to severe respiratory problems, kidney failure or death.
How is the Flu Spread?
The flu, is a virus that attacks the respiratory system. The flu virus is highly contagious: When an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, respiratory droplets are generated and transmitted into the air, and can then can be inhaled by anyone nearby. Additionally, a person who touches something with the virus on it and then touches his or her mouth, eyes or nose can become infected.
The coronavirus is spread through droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets generally do not travel more than a few feet, and they fall to the ground (or onto surfaces) in a few seconds — this is why social and physical distancing is effective in preventing the spread.
In 1918, 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.
The Spanish Flu wiped out entire families. Funeral parlors were overwhelmed and bodies piled up. Many people had to dig graves for their own family members.
In the United States, businesses were forced to shut down because so many employees were sick. Basic services such as mail delivery and garbage collection were hindered due to flu-stricken workers. In some places there weren’t enough farm workers to harvest crops. Even state and local health departments closed for business, hampering efforts to chronicle the spread of the 1918 flu and provide the public with answers about it.
Smithfield, one of the country’s largest pork-producing plants closed indefinitely after nearly 300 of its employees tested positive for COVID-19. Smithfield decided to close its plant in Sioux Falls, S.D., which provides 4% to 5% of the pork produced in the United States. Smithfield is one of several meat-producing companies that have suspended or cut back on production in recent weeks.
JBS USA has closed a Souderton, Pa., beef plant until at least Thursday and has reduced production at a second facility in Greeley, Colo., because of high absenteeism among employees. Cargill and Tyson Foods have also closed plants in Pennsylvania and Iowa.
“These facility closures will also have severe, perhaps disastrous, repercussions for many in the supply chain, first and foremost our nation’s livestock farmers.
A devastating second wave of the Spanish Flu hit American shores in the summer of 1918, as returning soldiers infected with the disease spread it to the general population especially in densely-crowded cities. Victims died within hours or days of developing symptoms, their skin turning blue and their lungs filling with fluid that caused them to suffocate. Without a vaccine or approved treatment plan, it fell to local mayors and healthy officials. In just one year, 1918, the average life expectancy in America plummeted by a dozen years.
Complicating matters was the fact that World War I had left parts of America with a shortage of physicians and other health workers. And of the available medical personnel in the U.S., many came down with the flu themselves.
Additionally, hospitals in some areas were so overloaded with flu patients that schools, private homes and other buildings had to be converted into makeshift hospitals, some of which were staffed by medical students.
With pressure to appear patriotic at wartime and with a censored media downplaying the disease’s spread, many made tragic decisions.
By the summer of 1919, the flu pandemic came to an end, as those that were infected either died or developed immunity.
Sources: History.com. Wikipedia, History of the Spanish Flu-S-Wells